Rock groynes recommended as best long term affordable option, but £2.3m partnership funding still required

East Devon District Council’s project team for the Sidmouth and East
Beach Management Plan (BMP) has sent the draft management plan and options appraisal to the BMP steering group (SG) (comprising members of community groups in Sidmouth, as well as the town, district and county councils, regulatory and public bodies). This is to allow the different SG members time to comment over the next month before the BMP is completed by early November.

The options appraisal report, which was issued on Tuesday 20 September 2016, summarises the work carried out to date by CH2M (the council’s coastal flood and erosion risk management consultants) on the coastal processes, economics, defence assessment, environmental impacts and includes an appraisal of the
shortlisted options.

The BMP itself sets out the plan for the management, monitoring and maintenance of the beach and hard defences across Sidmouth and East Beach, as well as an action plan to guide the future management of this area. It aims to provide a technically, environmentally and socially sustainable management approach for the next five years, including further development of the long-term preferred option

The beach management plan recognises that a form of offshore breakwaters (either parallel to the shore or angled) is the technically preferred option to maintain a healthy beach at Sidmouth and reduce erosion on East Beach.

However, giving consideration to which option provides the best balance between technical viability, environment acceptability and affordability, the beach management plan recommends that the best option in the long term to protect Sidmouth from flooding and erosion is to construct one or two new rock groynes on East Beach and to shorten the River Sid training wall and East Pier. This intervention would be supported by ongoing recharge (import of new shingle) and recycling (moving shingle along the beach as required). To deliver this option will require around £2.3M of partnership funding locally, which will be a challenge.

Should work by the funding sub-group over the next six months demonstrate that a higher level (around £11M) of partnership funding is available locally, then the preferred option could change.

Councillor Andrew Moulding, Chairman of the Steering Group said:

We have reached an exciting, but challenging stage in the beach management plan process. Now that a preferred option has been identified, we must endeavour to find potential partnership funding for works that will reduce erosion on East Beach and protect Sidmouth from coastal flooding. To do this, the council has now set up a sub-group of the BMP steering group to source partnership funding. The group will build on the work already carried out by East Devon to see what funding might be available locally to implement a beach management scheme across Sidmouth and East Beach.

As Alan Frampton of CH2M has pointed out, it can take between four to six years to secure partnership funding. So this must not be delayed and indeed must take priority.

Councillor Iain Chubb, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for the environment said:

The Environment Agency has made it clear that they would like to see a single preferred option that is realistically fundable and we have further meetings with them to discuss funding progress. We greatly appreciate their offer of assistance in helping the funding sub group source partnership funding and set up trusts and we will pay close heed to their warnings over the timeliness of funding for the project. Their input throughout the project has been invaluable. It’s great to see so many representatives of the local community coming forwards to work with us to meet this challenge.

Councillor Matt Booth, East Devon ward member for Sidmouth Town, and a member of the newly formed BMP funding sub-group, said:

The distribution of the draft plan and options appraisal for the BMP by the project team is very welcome and comes after a considerable period of hard work from all those involved. The consultants have recommended breakwaters and variations thereof as the technically preferred option. However, the newly formed funding sub-group will seek funding opportunities not only for the breakwaters, but also the more affordable option of rock groynes/beach recharging/recycling. It is vital that everyone on the Steering Group continues to work together