BMP report to go before council’s cabinet who will decide on whether to adopt the plan

Members of the Steering Group (SG) for the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan (SEBMP) demonstrated unanimous support for the aims of the SEBMP on Wednesday 15 March 2017 by voting in favour of a final version of the proposed Beach Management Plan being taken to the next stage of its journey - adoption by the district council.

A report on the SEBMP will now be presented at a meeting of East Devon District Council’s Cabinet on 5 April 2017, when members will decide whether to adopt the SEBMP. If they are in favour, this would allow the project to progress to its next stage - the production of an outline business case, leading to the implementation of a scheme of works to continue to maintain the standard of flood and coastal protection for Sidmouth.

The Steering Group, whose purpose is to act as a critical friend to the project, consists of representatives of East Devon District Council, Cliff Road Residents, Vision Group for Sidmouth, Sid Vale Association, Sidmouth Sailing Club, local fishermen, Sidmouth Lifeboat, Sidmouth Town Council, Devon County Council, Natural England, National Trust, Jurassic Coast Team, Environment Agency and South West Water.

At the meeting different aspects of the SEBMP were debated, including the consideration of installing a rock revetment (rock armour) along East Beach, which some of the Sidmouth community were keen to revisit as a defence option.

However, the SG Chairman Councillor Andrew Moulding reminded everyone that this option was eliminated at the long list stage of the SEBMP, when a decision was made by the SG not to take it forward as one of the short list options due to environmental concerns.

The unsuitability of rock revetment was reiterated by Natural England, the Jurassic Coast World Heritage team and the East Devon AONB team, who in a position statement prepared for the SG, confirmed unanimously that a rock revetment along East Beach would be environmentally unacceptable for two key reasons:

  • A rock revetment is a hard coastal defence and does not fit in with SMP (Shoreline Management Plan) policy
  • A rock revetment is likely to have a significant negative impact on the setting of the World Heritage Site

As the local Planning Authority, East Devon confirmed that this would be a material consideration for any planning application for works on East Beach, and as such they would advise progressing the preferred BMP Option, which the various statutory consultees are fully supportive of.

John Golding, East Devon’s Strategic Lead for Housing, Health and Environment, who has chaired the SEBMP funding sub group, gave an update on the progress being made by the group. He confirmed that initial scoping for potential partnership funding has demonstrated that East Devon is unlikely to be able to afford the £12.2M partnership funding for Option S4 (offshore breakwaters). However, while the £3.3M partnership funding for Option S1 (the recommended option from the BMP involving one or possibly two new rock groynes on East Beach) is looking more realistic, work must continue to ensure monies can be secured from the range of contributors approached for funding to provide the confidence necessary to secure Defra grant in aid.

Councillor Andrew Moulding summed up the meeting saying:

The East Devon AONB has given us clear and consistent guidance on the unsuitability of a rock revetment for East Beach. Furthermore, their position gives the district’s planning officers no alternative but to recommend  to refuse any applications for planning permission for this type of coastal and flooding defence in this location should such an application be made.

Following extensive debate, with many views being expressed, it has become clear to the SG that rock revetment is unacceptable. While it was important that this topic was given a chance to be revisited again, it is essential that we continue to heed the advice of our statutory partners and work constructively with them to progress the recommended option.

Commenting on the meeting, Chairman of East Devon District Council and Devon County Councillor Stuart Hughes, said:

I believe it was right to have delayed Cabinet’s decision on the SEBMP until the SG had a chance to democratically and fully debate the scheme. SG members needed to satisfy themselves that they are moving forward with a robust plan that is fit for its purpose of defending Sidmouth from coastal flooding and erosion. I fully support the SEBMP moving forward to adoption at Cabinet and I look forward to working with the SG to implement the scheme as soon as is practicable.