COAST protection works at both Weymouth and Lyme Regis could be delayed, or reduced in scale, because of rising costs.

The final phase of protection works for the historic Cobb at Lyme Regis is said to now be at least £2.1million short for structural repair works with a scheme to protect Weymouth Esplanade and Harbour areas also likely to be ‘substantially’ under-funded.

No full costs have ever been released for the Weymouth over-arching project which is still evolving and not likely to start until 2028.

The original Cobb proposals were expected to cost around £3million, £2.5m of that to be provided by the Environment Agency and £500,000 from Dorset Council. The total estimated cost has now risen to £5.2million although has not yet gone out to tender.

Lyme Regis harbourLyme Regis harbour (Image: Dorset Council)

For both schemes the rising costs it will mean re-design work having to be undertaken to reduce the final bill – and/or finding more money.

Nick Marks, chair of the Lyme Regis harbour users consultative committee, told Dorset councillors that there was concern in the town about how the shortfall might be made up – or that the works would be delayed or cut back leading to more winter storm damage to the iconic structure.

“We want the scheme to start in autumn 2025, as planned, as there is a clear risk to the Cobb structure and its integrity,” said Mr Marks.

READ MORE: 'Harbour works plans for Weymouth, West Bay and Lyme Regis'

The Dorset Council harbours consultative committee heard that recent storms had again led to a loss of power to Cobb buildings, said to be the fifth time it has happened in recent years. Part of the Cobb Phase 5 works includes new ducting for the power supply and an upgrade for electrical circuits to the buildings.

Manager for flood and coastal erosion at Dorset Council, Mr Matthew Penny, told councillors that other recently discovered problems with the Cobb, a grade 1 listed structure, was damage to the base of the seaward wall adjacent to the buildings, which would require a specialist contractor to fix, with some more immediate minor works planned to prevent further deterioration.

He said his team was working on finding additional funding for the Cobb Phase 5 works and also investigating ways of reducing cost – although the scheme was still scheduled for an autumn 2025 start.

The Phase 5 works, to stabilise and strengthen the Cobb, will not only help protect the harbour and town beach but also defend the previous coastal works in the town.

eymouth harbour wall close to North Quay where work is due to finish next monthWeymouth harbour wall close to North Quay where work is due to finish next month (Image: Dorset Council)

Mr Penny said that Phase One of the Weymouth Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management scheme now included what he described as “a high level review” of a proposed tidal barrier, although said that even it that was feasible and affordable work on it would not take place until 2060 or 2070.

Talking about the whole scheme for Weymouth he said: “a substantial funding gap can be expected due to higher construction costs, inflation and grant funding eligibility,” which he said was now common for many coastal schemes.

Councillors were told that work was now underway, with partner agencies, to find ways of addressing the shortfall, with parallel work taking place on gathering data in readiness for the detailed design work for the Weymouth project.

The design development of the scheme is scheduled to start from the summer of 2026 with a business case expected to be submitted before the end of winter 2025 with construction pencilled in to start in 2028.

Some of the more recent works to Weymouth harbour walls which have included repairs and strengthening are linked in to the overall plan to protect the area from predicted sea level rise.

The latest of these, to the inner harbour wall opposite the former North Quay council offices, is expected to be complete by the end of July, the work having been delayed by a partial collapse just as work was about to begin.