Concrete Coast Project

What is the Concrete Coast project?

The Concrete Coast programme is working to create new opportunities for intertidal species to thrive on the Yorkshire coast.  By adding artificial habitats to man-made coastal structures (such as coastal defences and harbour walls, made of concrete, stone, steel, or wood) we will  encourage coastal wildlife like limpets, mussels and shore crabs to return to the shorelines they once lived on.

The project is managed by the Yorkshire Marine Nature Partnership (YMNP) on behalf of the Environment Agency in partnership with East Riding of Yorkshire Council, North Yorkshire Council, the University of Hull, and other organisations.


Yorkshire’s coastline may seem wild and untamed in places, but in others, there are large expanses of artificial infrastructure. Whether they are vital sea defences to keep towns and businesses safe from the ever-pounding North Sea, or harbours and slipways to provide safe haven for the fishing fleets, these man-made structures allow us to continue living and working at the coast. In creating these walls and barriers, though, we change the natural landscape of the coastline and reduce the amount of habitat available to wildlife.

Due to a phenomenon known as ‘coastal squeeze’ many intertidal habitats are shrinking in size or being lost altogether.  ‘Coastal squeeze’ describes how, as sea levels rise, natural coastal habitats are unable to retreat further inland because of the walls, barriers and structures we have built.  This project will explore how we can encourage wildlife to colonise these artificial shorelines through simple and cost-effective methods, without changing the function or integrity of man-made coastal structures.

To find out more about how coastal change is managed, follow the link below.

Coastal Change

Artificial structures on our coastlines are usually made from hard rock (such as granite), concrete or metal sheet piling. These materials are perfect for sea defences, as they can withstand the force and power of the ocean, providing excellent protection for communities.  In comparison with a natural shoreline, however, rock armour defences and concrete or metal walls are very smooth and repetitive, which do not contain the variety required for intertidal and coastal wildlife.

By retrofitting and adding texture, pools, crevices, and holes to these structures  we can encourage wildlife to colonise and restore some of the habitat that was lost.  These ‘ecological enhancements’ have no negative impact on the integrity of the structure but could help us to improve coastal biodiversity and lessen human pressure on the natural environment.

Other Enhancement Projects

Bespoke habitats

The first phase of the Concrete Coast project worked to understand what kind of ecological enhancements could be added to artificial structures on the Yorkshire coast.  A second phase is now underway. Bespoke mussel habitats and vertipools (artificial rockpools) have been designed and will be installed in two of our priority locations in spring 2024. Baseline monitoring has been completed so the levels of biodiversity before and after the installation of new habitats can be compared and colonisation over time can be monitored.

© Artecology

Feasibility Report

In spring 2022, Arc Consulting completed a feasibility report for the Concrete Coast project.  This report explains the various types of ecological enhancements, identifies the structural assets on the Yorkshire coast and, highlights where enhancements could be added to these structures.  Further details are provided about how ‘greening’ man-made infrastructure could bring significant benefits to coastal habitats and support organisations in achieving their obligations towards biodiversity net gain and marine nature recovery.

After a consultation and development phase, implementation of suggested enhancements is now in progress, with installations of bespoke artificial habitats being planned for spring and summer of 2024.

Read the Report
© Heather Davison-Smith

Creating new habitat on timber groynes

Timber groynes are a well-known feature of the East Riding coastline. They work by trapping sand and sediment, which helps to maintain the beaches and slow the natural erosion process.  As part of the Concrete Coast project, the YMNP has worked with the local council, the University of Hull and specialist contractors to drill numerous shallow holes into selected timbers of the southernmost groynes at Hornsea and Withernsea.

These additions have no impact on how the groynes work, but they will provide more opportunity for small intertidal species to establish new colonies.  It is hoped that, in the long-term, adding more texture to the groynes will increase the diversity of intertidal species and support the wider marine ecosystem.

This innovative trial will be monitored by students from the university to measure how quickly species ‘move in’ and whether there is an overall increase in biodiversity.  This work will help to inform the Concrete Coast programme across Yorkshire, and may be replicated elsewhere.

© East Riding of Yorkshire Council