This alternative to Option 4 illustrates how a more oblique angled offshore breakwaters layout could look

Options consultation and processes explained to Steering Group to help them feed into preferred option to continue to protect Sidmouth against flooding and coastal erosion

The steering group for the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan (BMP) has now met to discuss the shortlist options as part of a consultation process to reach a preferred option to manage coastal and flood defences for Sidmouth seafront and East Beach. The meeting took place on Thursday  16 June 2016 at Kennaway House in Sidmouth – the day after the public consultation commenced on the shortlist options, which was also held at this venue.

The BMP’s aims are to continue to protect Sidmouth and East beach against coastal erosion and flooding in an integrated, justifiable and sustainable way across both Sidmouth Town Beach and East Beach, as well as to reduce the rate of erosion to the east of the River Sid.

Coastal expert Alan Frampton of CH2M - East Devon District Council’s coastal flood and erosion risk management consultants on this project – introduced the four shortlist options to the members of the Steering Group and explained their purpose, as well as the technical , environmental and economic benefits of each option.

The Steering Group comprises a cross section of representatives from the district, town and county councils, as well as community groups, local businesses, statutory bodies (Natural England, National Trust, Environment Agency, Jurassic Coast Team) and South West Water. The steering group advises on the development and delivery of the Beach Management Plan and acts as a critical friend to the Project Team.

Each option was considered and explained and Option 4 within the shortlist appeared of particular interest to the Sidmouth members of the steering group. Alan Frampton explained how CH2M had arrived at the proposal for four offshore breakwaters, running parallel to Sidmouth Town Beach and East Beach, and how this breakwater arrangement creates a more stable beach than angled breakwaters. It was stressed that the size, placement and orientation of the reefs could be modified following more detailed modelling.

The Sidmouth community representatives of the steering group proposed that a variation on Option 4 be included. This variation, which comprises angled offshore breakwaters tapering towards East Beach, will be included in the revised short list appraisal with sensitivity testing of the key differences from Option 4.

East Devon District Council agreed to include this variation on Option 4 within the options currently being consulted on and it has now been mocked up and included on the consultation boards, which are available for the public to see/comment on in the reception area at Knowle. An image of the Option 4 alternative can also be found in the consultation section of the BMP pages on the East Devon website. If an offshore reef solution emerges as the preferred option, then further detailed modeling of the various reef arrangements would be required to finalise the number, position, size and height of breakwaters required.

The proportion of funding available from central government for each option was also presented to the steering group. The option appraisal has identified the scale of contributions required from partners as ranging from £6 million to £15 million over the lifetime of the scheme. At this shortlist stage, the partnership funding contributions that have been calculated will present a major challenge for the project going forward. Funding for the remainder of the cost would need to be found from other sources such as grants and local contributions. The overall affordability of each option will be an important consideration in the decision making process.

Initial feedback from the previous day’s consultation was also presented to the steering group. The response to the consultation has been particularly encouraging so far, showing a good level of interest in ways to prevent flooding and coastal erosion in Sidmouth.

Around 100 members of the local community, including residents, fishermen, hoteliers and other Sidmouth businesses, together with district and town councillors, attended the consultation, which received a steady flow of visitors between 2pm to 7pm.

Alan Frampton, as well as David Turner, East Devon’s BMP project manager, were on hand to answer any questions at the consultation and to explain the project’s background. The received views of the public were wide ranging and covered topics such as:

  • Visual impact on the seascape
  • Safety concerns regarding people swimming out to the groynes/breakwaters/reefs and the impact on the use of the beach, navigation issues and the potential for rip currents
  • Stability of the land behind the seawall
  • The affect of the various options on surf conditions

Devon County Council (DCC) presented a number of options that they have been considering for Alma Bridge, which included a new proposal for a bridge further upstream, which would be less vulnerable to coastal changes and could include upgrades to the River Sid Western wall to improve the town’s flood defences.

East Devon has consulted with Environment Agency, Natural England, Jurassic Coast Team and DCC regarding interim works to protect Pennington Point and Alma Bridge against further coastal erosion, as well as getting advice from CH2M and construction companies on the viability of options to reduce erosion in this area while the BMP is being completed and the preferred options implemented.

All these authorities agree that Alma Bridge should be maintained in situ as long as it is safe to do so - once it becomes a risk to public safety, the structure will be dismantled. At that time the South West coastal path would be diverted temporarily inland to Mill Street, prior to the construction of the new Alma Bridge. A joint position statement has been published on the East Devon website.

The steering group requested that the council ensures that adequate signage be put in place to direct people towards the town centre as part of the diversion of the coastal path.

Information about the BMP public consultation, including a downloadable feedback form, is available on the East Devon website.

Feedback on the consultation needs to be with East Devon by Tuesday 5 July 2016.

The Steering Group will be meeting again mid August 2016 to discuss feedback from the public consultation, comments received from the Steering Group and CH2M’s recommendations for the preferred options.

John Golding, East Devon District Council’s Strategic Lead for Housing and Environment, said:

 “We want to receive as much feedback as possible from the local community to help inform the decision making process on the BMP options and to enable the project to proceed. We’re really pleased with the attendance at the information event and we would encourage people to visit Knowle to see the exhibition boards in the main reception area, which is open from 8.30am to 5pm. Or they can access the consultation material and download the feedback form from the website.

“We value the opinions of the local community highly as part of the BMP process. Their feedback and expertise is extremely important and we are delighted that the community group representatives on the Steering Group have decided to work together as an independent sub group that will make joint representations to the Steering Group.“