The bandstand on Eastbourne’s promenade is iconic, much loved by residents and visitors alike. It is a key part of the town’s tourist identity. Eastbourne Borough Council recently announced that it would spend £750,000 on urgently needed structural repairs to ensure it could continue to function safely.
But what about the long-term? Eastbourne – like coastal communities around the world – is a town literally in the front line of climate change, facing head-on the rising sea levels and stronger storm surges of a rapidly warming world. But the Bandstand is arguably beyond even that front line, jutting out at beach level into the no man’s land between high and low tides where the future of Eastbourne will be decided.
At present, at significant cost each year, the beach itself is replenished with fresh shingle and the groynes are maintained or renewed. Without that constant work, there would be no effective protection for the Bandstand, or indeed the promenade as a whole.
The Environment Agency is at present designing a new sea defence strategy for the coast between the Wish Tower and Pevensey Bay. It will cost at least £100 million to build and construction is due to start in 2025. Without this scheme, the town would be at the mercy of a sea level rise that would simply overwhelm the existing sea defences causing catastrophic, and possibly permanent, damage to the town.
So the Bandstand’s future is highly symbolic, for we all have to face the music. That means facing up to the challenges of climate change and its inevitable impacts.
The Bandstand can be saved for us and future generations to enjoy, but it may have to be remodelled completely as part of a general remodelling of the entire seafront promenade, which itself has to be integrated into a remodelled coastline beyond the town itself. But remodelling ourselves into a more resilient, sustainable community and a more localised economy is the essential complement to such physical remodelling.