22/11/2021 – Infrastructure / Engineering / Lagoon Humber / Causeway | UK
FUTURE-PROOFING THE HUMBER – The UK's proposed £1.5bn Lagoon Hull infrastructure project
Paul Hatley, Project Director of the once-in-a-generation infrastructure scheme Lagoon Hull – proposed for East Yorkshire – shares his views on COP26’s objectives, and how this ambitious development is poised to advance the UK’s sustainability agenda by boosting climate resilience and green economic growth alike.
The longest suspension bridge in the world when its construction reached completion in 1981, and remaining the longest in the UK today, Humber Bridge was built in an effort to connect East Riding in Yorkshire with North Lincolnshire – and to stimulate industrial and commercial development in the area in so doing. Fast-forward four decades and the proponents of an ambitious new engineering project are hoping it could have an even greater impact for the region – alleviating flood concerns, addressing chronic traffic congestion, and driving economic growth.
Described as the Humber region’s ‘most ambitious’ scheme in recent years, Lagoon Hull (www.lagoonhull.co.uk) is a £1.5 billion proposal for a six-mile causeway around Hull, East Yorkshire and into the Humber estuary. The six-mile wall in the Humber estuary will create a calm water lagoon to protect the city from flooding, as well as opening up a new waterside area. Giant lock gates will be used to impound water and allow shipping and boats in and out, while a new four-lane road running along the top of the wall will re-route traffic out of the city’s notoriously congested centre. The Lagoon Hull concept also includes construction of an outer harbour to bolster the region’s rapidly expanding offshore energy sector.
Flood defences for the future
The concept for Lagoon Hull began life as a direct response to the accelerating flood threat faced by Hull – a city of nearly 322,000 citizens. With 90 per cent of the city today standing below the high-tide line, Hull is unusually vulnerable to coastal flooding, and the damage caused by tidal surges has been a regular feature over the decades. Most recently, in December 2013, a record tidal surge on the east coast came within centimetres of breaching the city’s existing flood barrier, and devastated the nearby port of Immingham – a key site for UK oil and gas imports. And with the severity and frequency of such events only set to accelerate in the future, it is little wonder why city planners are looking to build up the city’s defences against inevitably rising sea levels.
Decarbonising the Humber
Beyond responding to the proximal risk of potentially devastating flooding, the Humber region’s proposed mega-project also chimes with the broader sustainability goals that all new projects should be adhering to, notes Project Director, Paul Hatley. “COP26’s objectives are certainly something cities across the UK and the world should be paying attention to – and innovative and bold schemes like Lagoon Hull are vital if we want to be in with a chance of meeting global climate change targets,” remarks Mr Hatley, a civil engineer with over two decades experience of building infrastructure in the Humber estuary.
The first aim of COP26 – securing global net-zero carbon emissions by the mid-century point, and keeping the target of limiting global warming to 1.5ºC within reach – will be achieved through measures such as accelerating the phase-out of coal, limiting deforestation, speeding up the switch to electric vehicles and encouraging investment in renewables.
“The Humber region produces the highest amount of carbon emissions of any UK industrial cluster, so decarbonising the Humber is crucial if we’re going to reach the UK’s – and COP26’s - 2050 target,” Mr Hatley points out. “We have no choice but to deliver Lagoon Hull if we’re going to unlock the region’s true renewable energy potential.” Certainly, alongside traditional industrial activity, in recent years Hull has become a key hub for the UK’s rapidly growing offshore wind segment, and is regarded as a critical gateway too Europe for he so-called ‘Northern Powerhouse’. Mr Hatley is confident that Lagoon Hull would turbo-charge those prospects.
“Much more than just a road”
“Electric and hydrogen vehicles are the future,” noted Mr Hatley, who said that through improved infrastructure, he and his team were well on their way to fully embedding this developing tech into the region’s future transport network in the form of the new mega-project. “Lagoon Hull will create a wholly new approach to traffic flow in and around Hull – perfect for electric vehicles. But this network also extends to creating more opportunities for walking, cycling and public transport – all of which will be supported by Lagoon Hull,” informed the Project Director.
“Lagoon Hull is so much more than just a road. It has been designed to unlock numerous sustainable opportunities in Hull and the wider Humber region that are entirely in line with the top item on the COP26 agenda. The creation of new green space and sustainable placemaking are central to project plans for Lagoon, so we’re working to rebalance the devastating effects of deforestation,” he added.
Protecting and restoring ecosystems
The second key aim of COP26 is about encouraging attendees to protect communities and habitats from climate change. “Protecting and restoring our native ecosystems in the Humber is incredibly important – we’re developing relationships with relevant stakeholders to establish a safe and sustainable design that protects and preserves our delicate ecosystem,” stressed Mr Hatley.
“Of course, Lagoon Hull’s central focus is to provide flood protection, keeping our communities safe against rising sea levels. The potential of a ‘lagoon structure’ has now been assessed by three independent bodies: the Environment Agency, the University of Hull, and environmental specialists ABPmer – all of whom agree that the creation of Lagoon Hull would be unlikely to lead to raised sea levels in other parts of the estuary. Its potential is incredibly far-reaching,” he remarked.
“In summary, COP26 is a springboard for change, but its objectives require communities, regions, countries and ultimately the entire world to come together and pledge to make meaningful changes,” advised the Project Director, who was keen to stress that the proposed project is as much about stimulating sustainable economic growth as it is about flood protection. “By encouraging and promoting sustainable innovation, the Humber region will be able to join this revolution – and I’m optimistic that Lagoon Hull can lead the way.”