Hastings Coastal Adaptation Pathfinder

The Hastings Pathfinder was a government funded project which aimed to inspect and analyse the persistently erosive section of Hastings coastline; the Fisherman’s Beach.


The persistent loss of shingle material (25,000m3 /yr) in a west to east movement leaves much of the Hastings coastline vulnerable to extreme weather conditions. In addition to the 1300 seafront properties at risk of flooding, the A259 is routed along the seafront making it vulnerable to flooding or loss in the event of the failure of the seawall, and the Hastings-Bexhill railway line is located on the crest of the shoreline at Bulverhythe where a breach of the shingle embankment would break the line. In the past large-scale flooding over and through the shingle bank has been a problem at Bulverhythe, with more localised flooding from waves overtopping the promenade at Carlisle Parade in Hastings every 1 to five years. The shingle loss not only reduces the availability of resort beach but exposes the concrete seawall to wave attack. The Cooden to Cliff End Coastal Strategy (10c) identified an urgent need for defence works at Bulverhythe and Carlisle Parade, where severe loss of shingle beach has occurred, and these have been undertaken. The Strategy also recommended a maintenance program of annual beach replenishment and replacement of key groynes which is underway.

The movement of shingle has also resulted in a substantial accretion of shingle between the Harbour Arm and Groyne1 at the east end of Hastings in the area known as the Stade, home to the local fishing industry for hundreds
of years. The levels of shingle within the harbour itself are higher than ever remembered and the gradient for the beach-launched fishing fleet (largest in Europe) is exceptionally high which causes significant problems for safe
landing and launching of the under 10m boats. (see Appendix 1). In addition erosion beneath the Harbour Arm on the west side is causing concern for the medium term stability of the structure and the movement of stabits is causing an underwater hazard to the fleet. Small boats can no longer anchor in the harbour as was customary in the past. DEFRA have allocated funding in 2010/11 for further research regarding the harbour arm and Hastings
coastline and beach profile (subject to approval).

Purpose of the Bid for a Pathfinder

  1. Create a historical record of the impact of coastal change upon this unique resource
  2. Carry out additional research to understand in more detail the impacts of the changing coastline on the fishing industry and identified short, medium and longer term solutions to the current situation.
  3. Engage the fishing community and the wider Stade Partnership in identifying the;
  • parameters of the research
  • create opportunities for participation in the research
  • agree process of dissemination to the wider community
  • evaluation
  • develop a funding strategy to animate the identified solutions

The support for community adaptation will be focused primarily on the fishing community but will include the wider community whose businesses or operations are based on or around the Stade. These come together in the Stade Partnership, supported by the Borough Council and in existence since the early 1990s. 

  • The fishing community comprises 27 skipper/owners of under 10m vessels registered in Hastings under the deed of compromise 1947 plus around 90 crew members, 9 boys ashore licensed to sell their share of the catch (a boy ashore is unique to Hastings beach, looking after the boat and taking a share of the catch ) the Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society formed in 1831 represents the interests of all the fishermen on Hastings beach and employs 2 parttime posts, Hastings Fish Market Enterprise administers Hastings Fish Market and employs 1 full-time and 2 part-time posts, 3 wholesalers operating out of Hastings Fish Market with their staff, 13 fishmongers including 8 mobile fish hawkers and 4 retail fish shops and a shellfish counter. In addition there is one boat builder/carpenter and a part time assistant , two beach engineers, two electricians, a marine hydraulic fitter, a fishermen’s co op, RNLI station, office and shop and the sector office for the Marine Coastguard Agency, the Hastings Fishermen’s Museum which attracts 150,000 visitors per year and employs 6 members of staff.
  • A Shipwreck and Coastal Heritage Museum, Blue Reef aquarium, Motor Boat and Yachting Club, 2 Angling clubs and related facilities, amusements and funfair, cafes, restaurants and pubs, and potentially a new art gallery, improved public open space and new community building are all located on or in very close proximity to the Stade. Protecting this unique and iconic artisanal fleet and enabling it to plan for adaptation to coastal and climate change over the next 30 years is not only essential to the sustainability of the fishing industry and related community whose history and heritage have shaped the town, but is also of key importance to the tourist industry in Hastings, and therefore the town’s overall economy. Spend directly related to tourism activity in Hastings brings approximately £150 million per annum to the local economy, and over 3,500 full time equivalent jobs are directly related to tourism. 

Another feature of the Hastings fishing fleet is that it has met Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) strict requirements for certification for its Dover sole, mackerel and herring fisheries. The traditional methods used have changed little over the years and are recognized as an eco-friendly method of fishing. Local fishermen are already involved in annual research work looking at the sites of shingle extraction off-shore and measuring the impact
particularly of the noise pollution on the migratory habits of the sole.

Current Responses to the Problem

In response to the increasing gradients on the fishing beach, a proportion of the fishermen have purchased more powerful winches where they can afford to do so. Fishermen have to take risks to land their catches, as the option to anchor off shore is no longer available as weather conditions do not allow this to happen any more (this used to be quite a common occurrence). In addition, 2 boats have temporarily moved their anchor point to Rye, offloading their catch at Rye and then driving their catch back to Hastings Fish market to sell. Whilst this is an adaptive response, it is not sustainable in the long term.

Click here to download the Hastings Pathfinder report

Click here to read about the History of Hastings