Guide Press releases about the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan

Show all parts of this guide

2. 18th December 2014 - 'Shingle recycling at Sidmouth to start first week of January'

Work to reinstate the depleted shingle on Sidmouth’s Main Beach will start early in the New Year, now that East Devon District Council has received approval for the job and funding has been agreed.

The council announced in October that it was looking into the possibility of accessing Government funding to reinstate both Main Beach and East Beach to the levels they were at before last winter’s storms. Work will go ahead early in the New Year on Main Beach, whilst East Beach has already been improved by natural shingle movement.

Councillor Andrew Moulding, the council’s deputy leader and chairman of a group looking at longer term coastal defence issues for Sidmouth, said:

I am pleased to announce that our partners at the Environment Agency (EA) have approved funding to enable us to carry out emergency work to recycle shingle at Sidmouth.

Funding for this work has been made available by Central Government, via the Environment Agency, in order to return beaches to the levels that they were at in the autumn of 2013, prior to the 2013/14 winter storms.


The work we are planning to carry out does not detract from funding for - or the timescale of - the current Beach Management Plan (BMP) project, which has a much wider scope. In fact, they complement the 1995 Coastal Defence Scheme*, which is at the core of the current project.

We believe the work we are proposing to carry out with central government funds, will be of benefit to the local community with little, if any, risk. So it is very worthwhile.

The recycling work, programmed to start on 5 January 2015, means sections of the beach will be closed to the public throughout daylight hours for around six weeks. Warning signs will be put in place before Christmas alerting the public to the imminent works.   To reduce the movements of heavy plant along the sea front, the machines will first form a temporary ramp up and over the rock groyne opposite the Bedford Hotel and will use the existing concrete ramps at the Royal York. The contractor carrying out the work is Dyer & Butler and the estimated timescale of six weeks to complete the job depends very much on the weather.

Main beach work

Currently there is more shingle at the western end of the main beach than at the eastern end. This is as predicted in 1995. The Government’s current emergency funding scheme only allows for recycling the beach back to the autumn 2013 profiles. This is what the council will be doing in the knowledge that this ‘emergency recycling’ will contribute to the ‘periodic recycling’ that was envisaged in 1995. If the emerging BMP recommends that the main beach should be fully or partially restored to the 1995 profiles, then this emergency recycling work will reduce the future cost of doing so.

East beach work

Earlier this year, when the council applied to the EA for funding to recycle shingle on the main beach, there was less shingle on East Beach than there was in autumn 2013. So the council also applied for funding to ‘recharge’ some of East beach with shingle from the main beach if there was surplus shingle on the main beach relative to the 1995 scheme volumes. Since then, with the assistance of the Plymouth Coast Observatory, it has been established that the main beach does not have a surplus. That means the proposal to recharge East Beach cannot go ahead. Fortunately shingle has started to return to East Beach, so nature is providing the protection the council was planning to provide.

In addition to the construction of the off-shore rock breakwaters and rock groynes, the 1995 Sidmouth Coastal Defence Scheme included the recharging of Sidmouth’s main beach (the beach between Chit Rocks and the River Sid), with shingle from an inland quarry, to create a beach of uniform width from one end of the beach to the other in order to protect the sea wall from wave attack and to reduce overtopping.   
When the scheme was designed it was predicted that there would be a net migration of the shingle from the eastern end of the main beach to its western end, and when this happened it would need to be recycled back to where it was placed in 1995, and so on for the lifetime of the scheme. The need for this ‘periodic recycling’ was allowed for in the design of the 1995 scheme and approved by all concerned at the time. Recycling beaches is common practice these days because it reduces the use of hard defences.

At Sidmouth, shingle drifts eastwards with westerly winds and westwards with easterly winds. The western end of the main beach is sheltered from westerly winds by the off shore breakwaters but not from easterly winds. Hence easterly winds drift shingle to the western end of the beach where it accumulates because it is sheltered from the westerly winds that would drift is eastwards. Hence the net migration on the main beach is east to west.