Hurst Spit to Lymington project information page

Closes 28 Jul 2022

Opened 29 Jul 2020



Welcome to the Hurst Spit to Lymington Project information page.

We have created this page to provide easy access to information on the scheme. We will be updating this site as the scheme progresses, so please keep checking for what's new.

To view our introductory film on the project, please visit our YouTube Channel.

You can download our latest project newsletter here [PDF 447KB] and our Frequently Asked Questions document here [PDF 432KB].

To be added to the mailing list for this newsletter, email us.

More Information

As an organisation we are doing everything we can to support our community, our government and the NHS by abiding by the measures set by the Government during the Covid-19 outbreak. Our priority in these difficult times is the health, safety and wellbeing of residents and staff. As a result of this we will not be undertaking face to face public engagement until it is safe to do so.
During this time, we recommend that anyone interested in the scheme should sign up to our email mailing list. You can so this by sending your name and details of the areas you’re interested in.


The Environment Agency in partnership with New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council and Natural England, with expert support from JBA Consulting, are exploring a sustainable future for the coastal frontage between Hurst Spit and Lymington in relation to flood and coastal erosion risk management. 

The Hurst Spit to Lymington project aims to investigate how to respond to the significant challenges facing this area of coastline now and in the future. The project will also look at how to fund any potential works that is proposed. 

This coastal frontage is located within the New Forest and extends from Milford-on-Sea in the west, encompasses Keyhaven and Pennington Marshes extending up the Lymington River to the east.

(Image above) Indication of frontage considered as part of the Hurst Spit to Lymington Project

The Hurst Spit to Lymington coastline is characterised by large areas of low-lying coastal habitats, including mudflats, saltmarsh and vegetated shingle. The existing defences, as well as protecting local communities, protects large areas of coastal grazing marsh and coastal lagoons. The habitats and the species which can be found along this section of coast are of international importance. The rich biodiversity creates the stunning landscape, which is accompanied by cultural and historical heritage of significant status. The area attracts substantial visitor numbers and is enjoyed by a range of recreational users, for activities such as walking, sailing and fishing. These factors, along with natural coastal processes, will need to be carefully considered as the project develops.

The predominant flood risk is from the sea; however risk of river flooding is also present, as well as a risk of surface water flooding in the more built up areas. This project will investigate all local flooding mechanisms to ascertain if a response is required.

This is the start of  a very forward-looking project that we hope will provide opportunities to protect, strengthen and enhance the environment in this area for future generations.

(Image above) Aerial view of Hurst Castle, Hurst Spit and Keyhaven Coastline (Image by A Colenutt)

More Information

Sea levels are expected to rise over 1 metre along the south coast in the next 100 years due to climate change. Being able to respond to this challenge will be key for safeguarding our coastal communities and environments for the future.
This coastline is a highly dynamic environment and change is a common occurrence. However, climate change could lead to impacts that are detrimental to both local communities and the environment. 
As sea levels rise, not only will flood risk increase to properties, infrastructure and low-lying land, but it will also increase the impact on the designated habitats and the species they support.  
Hurst Spit and the flood embankments are managed as coastal defences by New Forest District Council and the Environment Agency respectively. 
By dissipating wave energy, Hurst Spit shingle bank currently offers protection to both the flood embankments and the low-lying designated habitats behind it. Hurst Spit is becoming increasingly vulnerable to damage due to the net loss of shingle. On occasion, emergency repair works have been required, such as following the Valentine’s Day Storm in 2014. The vulnerability of the spit puts the flood embankments and the habitats and species which it protects at risk.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that the flood embankments combined with sea level rise are creating a process called coastal squeeze. The presence of the flood embankments prevents coastal habitats moving inland as sea levels rise. Where natural retreat of habitats inland is prevented it results in the loss of coastal habitats, which in this instance is mostly saltmarsh. The loss of large areas of this important saltmarsh habitat will have significant consequences for wildlife and local communities. Saltmarsh is known to act as a natural flood defence through stabilising the coastline and dissipating wave energy. It is also very good at taking carbon out of the air and storing it. The decline of these valuable habitats has already begun and will only continue if opportunities cannot be identified. 
In time, and without further recharging of the shingle, the protection offered by Hurst Spit is likely to reduce, exposing the intertidal habitats and flood embankments to higher wave energy. This will lead to a decline in the condition of the embankments making them more susceptible to damage from the sea. Although maintained regularly and functioning effectively at present, some long-term deterioration is beginning to show.
With the change in climate, more intense rainfall events are expected which will affect the rivers that drain out along this coast, increasing the risk of larger and more frequent flood events. Surface water flooding is also likely to occur on a greater scale than currently experienced. 

Hurst Castle

In February 2021 a section of wall on the castle collapsed after the sea exposed and undercut its foundations. English Heritage are working on a major project to protect and bring stability to the castle.  The repairs to Hurst Castle are a separate project to our flood risk scheme.

The long term works at the castle have implications on the Hurst Spit to Lymington project and vice versa. The project team will continue to hold discussions with English Heritage as both projects progress.  English Heritage are also a member of the Stakeholder Advisory Group (StAG) and continue to input into the project via this forum as well as through direct meetings. 

Further information on the project can be found the English Heritage website.

More Information

If the current status quo were to continue, it will get harder to maintain  Hurst Spit and embankments. Hurst Spit will need external sources of shingle in order to maintain its most effective size and shape. Shingle can be both expensive and time consuming to source especially when required for  emergency works. At present, there are 54 properties at risk from coastal flooding along this frontage. This number is low in relation to the length of coastline and therefore does not justify significant funding from central government under current funding rules. 
By maintaining the embankment and sea wall in their current alignment, this will cause the continued loss of saltmarsh due to coastal squeeze. As the condition of the embankments deteriorate, the coastal grazing marsh, lagoons and inland habitats are at ever increasing risk. The Habitats Directive places obligations on the UK Government to protect the designated sites and therefore the project partners will need to explore potential options to do so.
We want to work alongside relevant stakeholders to explore addressing these challenges and discuss the future of this coastline.

More Information

The project is in its very early stages and it will take several years to develop ideas and options through consultation before any final scheme is proposed.
We have begun to engage with professional organisations and local groups who have an interest in this coastline and the surrounding area.  The main focus so far has been to simply introduce the project to people and understand what they value about the coastline or what concerns they have regarding the future of this coastline.
We will also need to engage with property owners, wider community and landowners/ managers and we are currently planning how best to do this under the current restrictions. 
The numbers of stakeholders with a project of this scale is likely to be significant and therefore in order to support focused discussions a Stakeholder Advisory Group has been set up.  This is made up of mixture of organisations to try and represent various sectors.
Throughout this project there will be numerous opportunities for you to feed into its development, either through formal engagement events or via one of the communication channels below. We will continue to increase the level of communication with you and update you with progress.
We would encourage all interested parties in the area and neighbouring communities to sign up to updates / e-newsletters by registering your interest at . We would also encourage you to support any family members, friends or neighbours who cannot access online information, by sharing our updates with them.

More Information

Any scheme must meet strict funding rules. This means there is no guarantee a future scheme here would secure funding from the UK Government. Funding from other organisations, along with potential funding from the Government, is likely to be required. It is also possible that no scheme goes ahead if the costs cannot be justified against how much benefit a scheme would bring.

Be prepared for flooding

Please continue to be prepared and resilient towards flooding by signing up to receive advanced warnings of flooding. Register by calling Floodline 0345 988 1188, or visiting . If you are already registered to the Floodline Warning Service, again please check if your details need updating by visiting

Contact us

By email:

By phone: 03708 506506 and ask to speak to a member of the Hurst Spit to Lymington Project team

By post: Hurst Spit to Lymington Project, Environment Agency, Romsey Office, Canal Walk, Romsey, Hampshire, SO51 8DU.

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  • Businesses
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