Photo impression of the raised splashwall on Sidmouth promenade – please note this visual is shown without the planned enhancements which could include seating and planting and a better finish to the wall.

However around £2million funding shortfall still needs to be provided locally if beach management scheme is to go ahead

The Sidmouth and East Beach Management Scheme steering group received a positive project update from East Devon District Council and its consultants Royal HaskoningDHV when it met recently.

The project steering group is made up of local groups and organisations, as well as statutory bodies such as Natural England and the Environment Agency, who act as an important link between the community, businesses and regulatory bodies.

Royal HaskoningDHV explained the more detailed technical, economic and environmental assessments of different permutations of the scheme, which they have undertaken since they last met with the Steering Group in May 2018.

They have analysed the differing groyne lengths and the impact that variations in length can have on the erosion of East Beach, to agree a final design for the outline business case, which is the best balance of capital and maintenance costs.

The steering group was also shown draft visualisations of the scheme from key view points along the coast, which form part of the landscape and visual impact assessment for the scheme. Views from the town towards the sea have been considered and consultation with East Devon’s heritage and landscape officers is ongoing, to see how the impact on these views can best be mitigated, without compromising the objective of the scheme, which is to reduce the risk of flooding to low-lying areas of the town centre.

The steering group asked that the visualisations are circulated after the meeting although at present the finishes, and enhancements which will be added at detailed design are not shown. East Devon have included in the business case funding to enhance the splashwall with good quality finishes, relocated openings to make sure they are best situated in relation to where people wish to walk, to explore opportunities to declutter and improve seating so that people can benefit from the sheltering effect of the higher splashwall between the road traffic and promenade.

Cost estimates for the scheme have also been updated, with Royal HaskoningDHV working closely with experienced coastal contractor J T Mackley to ensure estimates are realistic. The revised cost estimate for construction of the scheme is £8.9million. Based on the economic analysis and the number of properties at risk of flooding in the town, this means that around £3million of funding needs to be provided locally for the scheme to go ahead.

East Devon has been working to help fill this funding gap, with £0.5M currently committed towards the scheme by East Devon, with Devon County Council indicating that they could contribute £0.5M as the scheme reduces waves overtopping onto the seafront road and Sidmouth Town Council able to provide £100,000 towards improved water access at Port Royal. Discussions around funding are continuing with other sources including developer contributions for better water access.

However, it was stressed at the meeting that if additional funding doesn’t come forward from the Town, then the scheme would be delayed until such time more funding was available.

Cllr Tom Wright, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder portfolio holder for the Environment and Chair of the steering group, said:

We’ve made great progress with the steering group in getting the scheme to this stage. We now have an excellent scheme which is environmentally acceptable to reduce the risk of flood and erosion to the town. Much has been done to reduce the funding gap, however as discussed by the steering group, a significant amount is still needed from the local community to help secure the future prosperity of the town.

It was really helpful to hear from the community groups who make up much of the steering group, and their reaction to the images, showing the increased height of the splash wall, shows how supportive they are of this change in order to reduce the risk to the town. They were excited by the opportunity to enhance the seafront through these changes which could include seating and planting. All plans will be subject to further consultation.