Canford Cliffs Stabilisation Works


A programme of stabilisation works to address the 2017 landslip below Cliff Drive, Poole.

This scheme supports the £9.5 million investment programme on Poole’s seafront and the plans to convert the Canford Cliffs pavilion into a cafe and refurbish the public toilets and beach huts


BCP Council



24th April 2017


September 2020

Stabilisation works at Canford Cliffs

Click to enlarge image

The Works 

Specialist contractor, CAN Geotechnical will deliver the £2.5m cliff stabilisation scheme. Work starts on 14th September 2020 and is anticipated to take up to nine months, completing in spring / summer 2021 (subject to weather conditions and government guidelines for working arrangements related to Covid-19).

Following a period of extensive planning and monitoring:


  • From 21st September soil nails (up to 15m in length), will be used to secure approximately 5,500m² of cliff. This method was previously used here during the 1990s and monitoring has demonstrated the cliff has remained stable (see Historical cliff slips below).
  • Long reach excavators will be used from the top of the cliff and from the promenade below.
  • Drill rigs will also be suspended from an anchor system at the top of the embankment.

Access on Cliff Drive

A section of Cliff Drive will be closed to vehicles and on-road parking suspended for the duration of the works. These arrangements will help ensure public and contractor safety and protect the special designation afforded to this area, a Site of Nature Conservation Interest.

Access will be maintained for residents, emergency services and construction vehicles only. Pedestrian access to Cliff Drive will also be maintained, although the zig-zag path to the beach will be closed. Flaghead Chine and Canford Cliffs Chine pathways will remain open. Diversions will be in place.

On site signage, September 2020

Project background

In February 2017 a section of cliff approximately 10m wide x 0.5m deep eroded and slipped at Canford Cliffs. There was concern the material might travel down to beach level, especially in the event of bad weather. Three blocks of beach huts were temporarily closed for safety reasons, along with a short stretch of undermined footpath on Cliff Drive. The programme of planned investment in new seafront infrastructure and beach huts at Canford Cliffs, due to start in 2017, was postponed. Since then, extensive planning and monitoring of the cliff face has taken place to understand how mobile it is and the best methods to secure it. 

Project Preparations

  • August 2020 Traffic Regulation Orders advertised the temporary part-closure of Cliff Drive, including the suspension of the parking bays and the closure of the zig-zag path for the duration of the works. Beach hut tenants were advised on arrangements for accessing and using their beach huts.
  • July 2020 Specialist contractor CAN Geotechnical was appointed to deliver the cliff stabilisation scheme. It will involve using soil nails (up to 15m in length) to stabilise the cliff face. The works are planned to minimise disruptionto residents and beach users.
  • January 2020 Vegetation was cut back to enable structural engineers to assess the condition of the cliff face and monitor its stability, helping with the final preparations for engineering works to stabilise the cliff. Cutting the vegetation close to ground level allowed wildlife surveys to be completed to ensure all protected reptiles and nesting birds are excluded from the proposed working area. Reptiles were moved to a pre-prepared ‘friendly’ habitat outside the exclusion zone. Once the stabilisation works are complete they will be able to re-colonise the area.
  • December 2019 / January 2020 A section of cliff to the east of the 2017 slip moved significantly over the Christmas period. This increased the risk of material piling up at the back of the beach huts which could be of sufficient force to cause a partial collapse of beach huts. Block number 6 was closed (along with Blocks 4 and 5) for safety reasons.
  • April 2019 Borehole drilling took place on the promenade and beach hut terraces around block numbers 1–11 (borehole location map, pdfsee below). This further ground investigation was required to provide the necessary information to complete the designs for cliff stabilisation.
  • March 2019 Cliff stabilisation works were given the go ahead by Council.

  • December 2018 Spraying and vegetation clearance continued throughout the winter months and extended eastwards towards the zig-zag footway, to reveal the full extent of the required cliff stabilisation area. The clearance also allowed wildlife mitigation; cutting vegetation close to ground level provides light for reptiles, areas for nesting birds and gives native heathers a chance to re-establish.
  • July 2018 Reptile fencing was used to create an exclusion zone, preventing reptiles from moving into the potential cliff stabilisation working area; those already in the area were moved to pre-prepared ‘reptile-friendly’ habitats outside the exclusion zone. Surveys continued until winter hibernation to ensure they had all been removed.
  • May 2018 Spraying cliff vegetation allowed reptile surveys; a reduction in thick vegetation encouraged protected reptiles to gradually move away from sprayed areas in preparation for the stabilisation works. Further spraying & cutting took place throughout the growing season.
  • March 2018 Drilling for soil samples up to a depth of 30m, took place over a period of 3-4 weeks. This work was part of the continuing ground investigation to help understand the geology of the site; the information collected would help inform the type of cliff stabilisation works required.
  • January 2018 Further cliff movement required a safety zone to be set up on the promenade at the base of the area.
  • September 2017 Work began to remove vegetation cover from the site; bare ground allowed engineers to gain a better understanding of the condition of the cliff face during the monitoring period. This work was carried out in two stages to enable the removal of emerging protected reptiles to the reptile-friendly landscape prepared for them on either side of the cleared area.
  • June 2017 Assessments of the 1970s cliff stablisation schemes took place in the areas either side of the 2017 slip; photos below.
  • May 2017 Installation of all monitoring targets was completed, and the Channel Coastal Observatory started its monitoring. A laser scanner is unable to ‘read’ the cliff face through vegetation to assess movement, so the scanner accurately measures the tagets’ position, within a +/-2mm tolerance; photos below. The same laser scanner is used to measure the level of Poole’s beaches for coast protection purposes. 
  • April 2017 Work commenced on the installation of steel targets at regular intervals along and down a 300m section of cliff at Canford Cliffs. The monitoring of these targets identify whether the cliff is moving or stable, and help establish cliff stabilisation requirements; photos below..

Vegetation clearance January 2020

June 2017: Assessing previous cliff stabilisation work

May 2017: Monitoring methods

April 2017: The slip and installing targets to monitor cliff movement

Protecting Wildlife

The area of cliff affected by the landslip is part of the Poole Cliffs SNCI (Site of Nature Conservation Interest) which is managed by the Council for it’s nature conservation interest. It provides an ideal habitat for the nationally rare Sand Lizard and Dartford Warbler which are both protected species, and other birds that might be nesting in the gorse bushes.

During the period of cliff stability monitoring it was necessary to clear cliff vegetation to enable structural engineers to assess the condition of the cliff face. At the same time reptiles were encouraged to gradually move away from the ‘exclusion zone’ to pre-prepared reptile-friendly habitats beyond it. Surveys were carried out until winter hibernation to ensure the zone was clear of reptiles in anticipation of cliff stabilisation works.

The Council’s biodiversity officer has been working, and continues to work throughout this project to protect both habitats and wildlife.

Historical cliff slips at Canford Cliffs

Over the past 40 years there have been three significant cliff slips at Canford Cliffs Chine. The first two happened during the 1970s and one of these resulted in a block of beach huts being demolished (these were only reinstated in 2014). The third significant slip took place in 1993.

Each of the slips at Canford Cliffs required stabilisation schemes including a system of transverse steel beams positioned down the cliff face and a series of soil nails to pin and hold a top section of the cliff.