The Birling Gap beach, within the parish of East Dean and Friston, East Sussex, is owned by the National Trust (NT). Coastal erosion is a key issue in this area. The National Trust runs an all-in-one café, shop, and information point, which is perched on the cliff above the beach. The attraction receives an estimated 350,000 visitors a year, and visitors can enjoy views towards Beachy Head in the east and the iconic Seven Sisters in the west.
To tackle the challenge of coastal erosion, working as much as possible with nature and not against it, the property team at Birling Gap have implemented a ‘roll-back’ approach. The building has been renovated with a long-term vision in mind; the café will have a life span of around 25 years, and the shop and proposed visitor centre over 30 years. ‘We’re working with coastal change, closing the original rooms as we need to and creating similar-sized rooms at the back of the building.
In the future, we also plan to design simple new structures that can easily be taken down and re-built. That way we can stay ahead of the eroding cliff line.’ Jane Cecil, General Manager for the South Downs.