WORK on a £3.4m project on a historic pier aimed at protecting an east Durham town from flooding is getting underway this week.

The scheme at Seaham’s North Pier will safeguard about 100 homes and 30 businesses in the town against potential flood risks and help prevent coastal deterioration by stopping storm waves penetrating the harbour.

It is part of a joint project between Durham County Council, the Environment Agency and port operators the Victoria Group.

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The harbour is protected by two outer piers – the North Pier and the South Pier – which were built between 1899 and 1906.

Although there is no history of damage from the coast being naturally worn away, the North Pier is known to have been breached at least three times and could be at risk of repeated failure during heavy storms in future if left untreated.

As well as protecting homes and businesses, the project will also guard the harbour and the marina development against potential flooding as well as helping to support tourism and leisure activities in the town, fishing, and habitats for important species of birds.

John Reed, Durham County Council’s head of technical services, said: “This project is excellent news for Seaham as these improvements will not only secure the future economic infrastructure of the town but will also play a vital part in protecting it against coastal erosion and other major environmental risks such as flooding.”

The council is aiming to create as little disruption as possible around the marina while the work is carried out.

However there will be times when less parking spaces will be available, as there is limited space and only one road in and out. There will be more spaces available at weekends.

Contractors Carillion will be on-site from Monday, July 28, and the work will carry on until November 2014.

Work will then continue between April and November 2015.

The car park will return to normal between November 2014 and March 2015 when the works will not be in place.

It will also be business as usual for local attractions and activities at the marina.