Cabinet approves additional funding to enable council to complete planning stage of Sidmouth and East Beach management plan

Additional funding of £54,000, which will enable the planning stage of the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan to be completed was approved by East Devon District Council’s Cabinet at a meeting on 13 July 2016.

The costs of the project had risen as a result of a number of changes to it throughout its course, including requests from the steering group for additional work such as analysis by CH2M to take into account local people’s anecdotal evidence and to provide a more detailed appraisal of the long list of options. The steering group is made up of statutory bodies such as the Environment Agency and Natural England, as well as community groups such as the Sid Vale Association and Vision Group for Sidmouth who provide valuable representation of local people.

The latest stage of the BMP project – a consultation to ascertain public opinion on the short listed options to manage coastal and flood defences for Sidmouth seafront and East Beach – concluded on 4 July.

There has been a good level of response to the consultation, which was launched at Kennaway House in Sidmouth on 15 June and publicised through press releases sent to the local media, letters to local residents, businesses and organisations, as well as posters in public places and social media (Facebook and Twitter). The community group members of the steering group were also asked to help highlight the consultation to their respective memberships.

Around 100 members of the local community attended the consultation at Kennaway House, with consultation material also available at the council’s Sidmouth office and on the East Devon website for those unable to attend on the day. Feedback has been received from a broad range of people across Sidmouth and the surrounding area, not just those residents and businesses affected directly by flooding. Fishermen, surfers, beach users, hoteliers and other local businesses also had their say.   

Around a third of those who responded were in favour of Option 4, to remove the current rock groynes on the beach, construct more rock breakwaters further out to sea (similar to those already in place – at Sidmouth Town Beach) and periodically replenish and recycle the shingle.

Responses indicated that primarily people liked this option best because they felt the breakwaters offered the best defence from flooding and coastal erosion. The visual impact was clearly also important to the local community and was often cited in the responses received as the reason for a preference for one option over another.

Option 1 and the variation to Option 4 with angled breakwaters were in joint second place with just over a sixth of responses in favour of Option 1 (essentially maintain the existing defences, shorten the River Sid Training Wall construct a low level rock groyne east of the River Sid and periodically replenish and recycle the shingle.), or a modified version of Option 4 with breakwaters angled to face the south west .

Just under a  sixth of people who responded were in favour of Option 2, to modify the existing rock groynes to make them “t-shaped”, shorten the River Sid Training Wall and East Pier, construct a low level rock groyne east of the River Sid, and periodically replenish and recycle the shingle..

Additional comments made by respondents:

  • A number of concerns were expressed over the visual impacts, with a number of people commenting that additional breakwaters would be a real eyesore and put off tourists.
  • Some people highlighted the need to protect the town from south easterly storms, as well as south westerly ones.
  • Concern was raised about removing some of the existing shoreline structures, which have provided excellent defence to Sidmouth for the past 20 years.
  • There was general concern about the timescale and a consensus that work needs carrying out.
  • There were also comments about the inclusion of a jetty or harbour, which people are keen to see in place and this can be given further consideration as part of the outline design for the preferred option.
  • A number of respondents felt that the best protection against flooding and coastal erosion would come at a higher cost and that realistically it would be difficult to achieve.
  • Beach users felt that additional breakwaters would detract from the visual amenity of the beach, and could create a hazard.

Moving forward

CH2M will now add these responses to their appraisal of the shortlisted options, which also includes the various economic, technical and environmental benefits/impacts for each option. They will recommend a preferred option, which will be discussed with the steering group.

The preferred option and the evidence from the BMP will form part of the outline business case, which will be sent to the Environment Agency for approval of their proportion of funding following outline design. Upwards of £5M of partnership funding contributions will need to be secured before Environment Agency funding can be approved.

Funding challenge

Councillor Andrew Moulding, Chairman of the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan Steering Group, says that one of the biggest challenges facing the council is to find partnership funding.

We will be seeking contributions from people who will benefit from the scheme, such as local businesses and residents who will be protected from the risk of coastal flooding and erosion. For example if Option 4 becomes the final preferred option, we will need to find around £15million of funding through partner contributions towards the scheme.

It is important that people recognize the problem of finding what amounts to a significant amount of money. The council will do its best to secure financial support from a range of sources including those residents and businesses in Sidmouth who benefit directly, but critically we simply do not have that amount of money at our disposal and people need to be aware that the preferred option will need to be one that is financially viable if it is ever to be implemented.