Seaton's beach management plan aims to ensure the town's coastal defences are capable of proving protection against flood and erosion

BMP’s preferred defence options will upgrade the defences from Seaton Hole to West Walk to reduce erosion

A Beach Management Plan (BMP) for Seaton has been given the go ahead by members of East Devon District Council’s Cabinet who voted in favour of adopting the Plan at a meeting on 7 March 2018.

The BMP has been developed over the past nine months by the council’s consultants CH2M (now Jacobs), supported by a local stakeholder group made up of local groups and councillors with an interest in this stretch of coast.

The BMP aims to ensure that the town’s coastal defences continue to provide a good level of protection against flood and erosion, and will determine an appropriate management regime for Axmouth spit to compliment Seaton Town Council’s vision for the seafront. It will carry out these aims in an integrated, justifiable and sustainable way.

Over the course of the project a number of public consultation events have been held, with the final consultation concluding in December. The response to the consultations, which proposed a range of options to reduce erosion and flooding from Seaton Hole to the River Axe, was really positive, with a good number of local people viewing the material at the consultation events, as well as on the East Devon website.

The responses from the stakeholder group, public consultation and statutory consultees, such as Natural England, and the Environment Agency were considered by the project team to arrive at a preferred option for each section of the coast.

For the coastline from Seaton Hole to West Walk, the BMP concluded that the preferred option is to upgrade or replace the existing concrete and rock structures at the base of the cliffs, replace the wire mesh baskets filled with small rocks (known as gabion baskets) from the bottom of the cliffs to the Check House seawall with large rock sea defences similar to those further West and to upgrade the Check House seawall. It is intended that this will form a continuous line of defence from Seaton Hole to West Walk and will help continue and improve the protection to the toe of the cliffs.

Cliff top drainage measures have also been recommended in this area, to help reduce the effect of heavy rainfall on the stability of the cliff.

The council is in the process of commissioning the outline design and Outline Business Case for these works, which will be necessary in order to secure government funding to implement a Coast Protection Scheme from Seaton Hole to West Walk. 

In advance of this, East Devon has also been in contact with Devon County Council and South West Water to start discussions about how they can contribute towards the cost of the project, which will benefit their infrastructure.

For the defences along Seaton Beach and the Environment Agency seawall, the BMP has recommended improved drainage to the rear of the wall, to help direct water that comes over the wall during storms and no alterations to the existing Environment Agency seawall, which was constructed in the 1970s.

During the project it has been suggested that Seaton’s seawall was designed on the basis that the beach should be maintained at a lower level in front of it, so the project took this on board and looked into this area further. However, analysis shows that this would in fact increase the amount of water coming over the wall during storms.

East Devon and the Environment Agency are currently discussing ways on how to take the scheme recommendations for this length of the beach forwards, given that funding would be very limited.

The BMP has also been looking at options for disposal of sediment from Axmouth Harbour - , analysis of samples form the Harbour is expected to be completed in March and this will inform options for management of the spit and options for disposal of the dredged material.  

The council will be undertaking further consultation with regulators such as the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), and the Environment Agency, as well as the Harbour Management Company, and harbour users.

Councillor Tom Wright, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for the Environment, said:

“It’s heartening to see how much people in Seaton value their wonderful beach and coastline. They gave us some really helpful feedback on how East Devon and the Environment Agency should manage the risk of flood and erosion along this length of our coast throughout the project.”

Cllr Marcus Hartnell, East Devon’s deputy portfolio holder for the environment and Chair of the Stakeholder Group, said:

“I was really pleased to see so many people having their say during the project, and it’s fantastic that the district council is committed to taking forwards a scheme to reduce erosion and help protect our town.”