Image shows how the new slipway will look following the work

Contractors to start work in Spring 2016

Work on the new £1 million Mamhead Slipway in Exmouth is now planned to start in spring 2016, rather than later this year to avoid impacting on the migrating birds which spend the winter on the River Exe.

The Exe is home to thousands of birds which arrive in the autumn from the Arctic regions and spend the winter here before returning north in the spring. Because of the vital role that the estuary plays in the survival of these bird species it is designated as a Special Protection Area, and this limits activities which could affect their survival.

East Devon District Council was given a licence from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), who is advised by Natural England, as to when the works in the estuary could be carried out. However, contractors say that they could not be certain about completing the works in the water by the MMO deadline of 30 September.

In order to comply with the marine licence, which permits work in the estuary during the spring and summer, the works will now not start on site until next March.

This means that work on the slipway carried out in the water which could disturb the bird population, such as piling, will not be carried out until the over-wintering birds have flown north. The marine licence also requires that the piling work does not impact on migrating fish. The Council expects the new slipway to be ready for use by Autumn 2016.

Ian Harrison, project manager for the replacement slipway, said:

If we could find a way of accelerating the work then we would, but the licence limits the period we can work. It would be too risky to start the project now and leave it half completed over the winter where it could be damaged by storms and affect the wildlife on the estuary.

While the delay is frustrating, we are going to provide a resilient structure for people to use for decades to come.

The existing slipway, which closed in 2012 to protect public safety, will be improved to provide additional vehicle manoeuvring space using the area of Mamhead Gardens. The new structure will be 38 metres long, and 12 metres wide while the current slipway is 34 metres long and 7.5 metres wide.

The Council is also aware that another summer season without Mamhead being operational may mean other waterfront locations such as Belshers Slipway are used more frequently. The Council has stressed that it will make sure it has resources in place to manage the situation.

Councillor Andrew Moulding, deputy leader of East Devon District Council and chairman of Exmouth Regeneration Programme Board, said:

While we are disappointed at the news about Mamhead, it is important this work is done properly to ensure a long-lasting, improved slipway is provided for water users.

When complete, the new slipway will encourage water users, both from Exmouth and further afield, to use this wonderful maritime location bringing more business to the town.

The funding for the slipway will be provided from within East Devon District Council’s capital programme.