This photograph of East Cliff was taken by the drone at lower altitude. If you look carefully you can see circular waves with their centre at the end of the river training wall. This is wave diffraction and it can cause erosion.

Steering Group update reveals considerable progress has been made on BMP

The past four months have been extremely busy for the project team working on the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan, as the latest Steering Group newsletter reveals. East Devon District Council’s Assistant Project Manager Tony Burch, has just issued this update, which highlights the positive results that have been achieved in a number of significant areas of the project and outlines the next steps.

Coastal process report updated using anecdotal evidence

Thanks to the generosity of Sidmouth’s community - who responded magnificently to the council’s request for more local information to assist with the preparation of the coastal processes report - over 200 photographs, sketches, postcards, timelines, web links and personal memories of the coastline were received at Knowle. This information was passed on to the BMP’s consultants, Halcrow, who at the request of the BMP Steering Group and East Devon, have analysed  this important local knowledge and reported their findings in a specific anecdotal evidence section of their revised coastal process report. The report is currently being reviewed by the council and will be released once any changes have been incorporated.

Economics baseline report

Now that the Coastal Processes baseline report is nearing completion, work has recommenced on the Economic baseline report and the council is anticipating a draft to be issued for consultation by the end of July. A recent addition to this report has been ‘drive-by’ values of the properties on Cliff Road, which were undertaken by Fulfords, a local estate agency.

Aerial survey of Sidmouth shoreline

Hundreds of  aerial photographs that were taken by a drone back in March (on behalf of the council) have provided a crucial up-to-date record of the main Sidmouth beach and the cliffs east of the River Sid within the context of the whole coastline from the River Sid to the headland due south of Salcombe Regis. This also means that the council now has a record of the main beach just after the shingle recycling project was completed, so any changes can be measured against the photographs produced. Because the images were taken at a lower altitude than historic aerial photographs, there is far more detail in the pictures, including wave patterns around coastal structures, which can be used to assess the cause of erosion.

Alma Bridge

Devon County Council (DCC) has drawn up plans to build a clear span bridge (to replace the old Alma Bridge), with its foundations in the cliff face and on the pavement, so it will be less vulnerable to erosion. These plans – which will be undergoing preliminary consultation – will be informed by the revised Coastal Process report.

Review of the existing management regime (Stage Three of the BMP)

A review of the existing management regime  is now underway, using information from the baseline reports (Stage two of the BMP).The existing management practices are being compared to the issues covered by the coastal processes, coastal defence works, environmental issues, economics reports, to decide whether they are appropriate and this assessment will help inform Stage Four.

Development of options for future management regimes (Stage Four of the BMP)

Halcrow have commenced work on the development of potentially viable flood and coastal risk management (FRCM) options ready for the Steering Group to consider in the autumn. This will also include non-FRCM opportunities, based on FRCM actions - for example, if the rock groynes needed to be modified for FRCM reasons, could they be altered to accommodate a passenger dock for the Heritage Coast ferry? The options will be evaluated against technical, environmental and economic criteria to produce a short list on which steering group members and the local community will be consulted, which will in turn be reduced to a final selection of ‘preferred’ options.

Railway tunnel

The hunt has been on for the position of the railway tunnel that was excavated in the 19th Century within the cliffs. Although an access adit (entrance) is visible in the cliff face, the BMP project team was keen to pinpoint the rest of the tunnel as it poses a risk of increasing erosion if it collapses. The team believes it found the west and east sections of the tunnel and is currently liaising with the National Trust on what steps to take.

Hard work

Commenting on the work that has taken place to date, Councillor Andrew Moulding, East Devon District Council’s deputy leader and Chairman of the Steering Group Committee, said:

I would like to thank the project team, Halcrow and the members of the Steering Group for all their hard work and assistance in the development of the BMP. It is tremendously exciting to have reached the fourth stage of this long and technically challenging  coastal defence project – we are now only a short step away from being in a position where we can actually start to produce the BMP itself and provide a detailed plan for the short, medium and long-term management of the beach and cliffs.