Between the towns of Domburg and Vlissingen, large sections of the Walcheren peninsula coast have been designated as “weak links” on the North Sea coast. The issue is flood risk management: protection against the rising sea water level and increasingly more forceful and higher wave action. These weak links will be reinforced in the near future (before 2020). The Westkapelle, Zoutelande, and Vlissingen waterfronts have been categorised as Weak Links Second Phase (realisation after 2020). With climate change at the back of our minds, the question is how these waterfronts can continue to provide sufficient flood protection as well.
The main opportunity in this issue is enhancing the spatial quality of the urban waterfronts. That is why, apart from the flood risk management aspects, we have also taken a comprehensive look at the urban development, socio-economic, and cultural-historical aspects.
This pilot was intended to explore how urban and village coastal promenades can be transformed, in a climate-proof manner, into high-quality waterfronts for residents, visitors, and entrepreneurs. The pilot has generated innovative ideas: learning to take a flexible approach to uncertainties, making the most of each available decimetre of space, water-sensitive area development as a coastal defence. The discoveries made in this pilot have prompted a different way of thinking: after all, learning to take a flexible approach to uncertainties requires a change vis-à-vis thinking in terms of standards. This applies to flood risk management standards, water levels, and the use of space. An important lesson concerns the value of involving the Quality Team of the Province of Zeeland in the design study process right from the start: with their local know-how, they provide highly valuable input.
The outcomes of the Walcheren Waterfronts pilot thus constitute a good point of departure for transforming, in a climate-proof manner, the urban and village promenades into high-quality waterfronts for residents, visitors, and entrepreneurs. In this case, the high quality does not pertain to the height of the sea wall, but rather to the fact that coastal reinforcement along the Walcheren waterfronts involves, in fact, water-sensitive area development.