On Air A Little Light Music Maurice Powell | 9:00pm - 10:00pm

Of Groynes and Sea Walls: The changing face of Douglas Beach

'Your days are numbered' - the railings on Douglas promenade set for replacement.

Plans to replace railings on promenade sparks debate

Earlier this month we heard how plans to replace 500 metres of railings along Douglas promenade with a new sea wall had taken a step forward, with the work due to get underway at the start of the new year.

At 1.2 metres tall, and with scope to increase that height by 0.6 metres in the future, the new wall will stretch from the end of the Sunken Gardens, past the War Memorial to opposite the Empress Hotel.

It's expected to cost somewhere in the region of £900,000.

Since the recent planning approval, and recruitment of contractors to carry out the work, we've seen a big reaction from Island residents - mostly relating to concerns around the height of the wall and the impact on the sea view.

A diagram of what the proposed wall would look like - Department of Infrastructure.

Some common suggestions, in place of a new wall, seem to be: 'Why not just lower the beach, reveal some of the existing sea wall', to 'put the groynes back along the beach, the sand and stones have been allowed to build up'.

'At some stage the wall along the whole of the prom probably needs to be done, so it's just a starting point for that.' - Minister Crookall.

Manx Radio asked Infrastructure Minister Tim Crookall what the main reason was for a wall to be built:

On the removal of the groynes, Mr Crookall said it was 'an interesting one', and he wanted to have 'discussions' as they 'seem to stop the sand from drifting.

Douglas promenade opposite the Empress Hotel after some particularly strong weather - 1977. Image credit: iMuseum.

It really is third time's the charm for this project, with the proposals having been thrown out twice already - first in 2018, and again in October 2019. It was eventually given the go-ahead in 2020.

Waves overtopping onto Douglas promenade during Storm Debi, November 2023 - Manx Radio.

'When powerful seas are coming into the beach, it helps to have a sloping beach to dissipate the force of the waves.' - Chris Thomas, MHK.

Before he was forced to leave his role as infrastructure minister earlier this year, Douglas Central MHK Chris Thomas spent time on these proposals, and those for the wider promenade walkway.

He told Manx Radio that the main purpose for the wall is to protect the highway and the heritage rail -  the Sunken Gardens offer flood protection for the road already (sans Horse Tramway) hence why railings along that section will remain, for now.

But Mr Thomas says there seems to be confusion over why the wall is needed:

The design of the wall itself, constructed from 'cast in-situ reinforced concrete', is set to have 'decorative surfaces that mirror the features on the existing concrete pillars' and 'artwork panels showcasing the work of local artists'.

Those of a certain age will remember a time when the railings along the promenade were painted dark green. They were painted blue at the turn of the millennium - the colour tongue-in-cheekily referred to as 'Douglas Blue-Thousand'.

So, are these plans the latest phase of what's been an ever-changing face of the seafront?

'Douglas is now a different beach' - Charles Guard.

A man who grew up on Douglas promenade and who is witness to several decades of change is Manx historian Charles Guard:

A game of cricket on a sandy Douglas Beach opposite the Villa Marina, a section of the groynes can be seen in the foreground. Image credit: iMuseum. 

The work to replace the railings is set to start in January and it's hoped the new wall will be in place by September 2024.

Approval has also been granted for phase two of the project, which will see railings replaced from the Sea Terminal to the start of the Sunken Gardens. The department says this work will shortly go out to tender with construction to begin at the earliest opportunity.



More from Isle of Man News