The preferred option would involve beach replenishment, periodic beach recycling, a new rock groyne on East Beach, raising the height of the splash wall and repairs to the river Sid training wall

Funding gap of around £1.5m urgently needs to be filled if preferred option for coastal flooding/erosion protection of Sidmouth is to be progressed

Members of the Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme Steering Group (comprising community representatives and key stakeholders, including the Environment Agency and Sidmouth ward members) met on 22 August 2019 for an update on the project’s progress, as well as a review of the rigorous data gathering and analysis carried out to identify ways of protecting the town from coastal flooding and slowing down the rate of erosion on East Beach.

Following a presentation made by the project’s management team and coastal flooding specialists Royal Haskoning (East Devon’s project consultants), almost unanimous agreement (bar two abstentions) was reached by the Steering Group to implement the preferred option (subject to £1.5m of partnership funding being secured). The decision to accept the advice of the experts on the most appropriate scheme, balancing financial viability, technical performance and environmental impact, was supported by all the Sidmouth ward members present.

The background work to the Beach Management Plan’s preferred option, which is seen as an integrated scheme of protection across the entire frontage of Sidmouth, was carefully explained to the Steering Group. Work would involve beach replenishment, periodic beach recycling, a new rock groyne on East Beach, raising the height of the splash wall, and repairs to the river Sid training wall.

Design details of the raised splash wall (which a number of representatives expressed concern over the height) will be the subject of further work involving the steering group and future consultations. It is currently anticipated that this wall will need to be at one metre above the promenade to contain wave overtopping.

There was also overwhelming support for raising the necessary partnership funding and agreement that the energy of the group should now be focused on securing resources to jointly fund the scheme in order to access government finance.

The current national grant funding scheme calculates community benefits (essentially the protection of properties) and translates this into a grant. In the case of Sidmouth, this means that a significant part of the scheme’s cost has to be raised locally, as fewer properties are protected than a scheme such as Exmouth, which therefore attracts a higher grant.

Costs for construction of the scheme are estimated at £8.9million. Based on the economic analysis and the number of properties at risk of flooding in the town, this means that around £3.2 million of funding needs to be provided locally for the scheme to go ahead.

Depending on the level of contributions East Devon can secure from other sources (including utilities companies whose infrastructure will be protected, such as South West Water, S106 contributions, Cliff Road residents (who have already agreed some funding), East Devon’s housing service, a local levy, Sidmouth Lifeboat and the Keith Owen Fund), the partnership funding gap that the council still needs to find to enable the scheme to be built, is in the region of £1.5 million.

East Devon District Council has been working hard to help fill this funding gap and has committed £500,000 to the scheme, with Devon County Council indicating that they could contribute £500,000 and Sidmouth Town Council £100,000. Potential contributions from other sources are estimated at between £0.25-£1.25million.

Partnership funding for the beach management scheme is a critical element in accessing government grants and needs to be in place before the council can submit its final outline business case (which will include detailed surveys, investigations and wave modelling, together with costings and funding confirmation) for approval by the Environment Agency. The draft outline business case has already been prepared, but needs full funding information before it can be submitted. A deadline of August 2020 was agreed by the Steering Group in which to source the outstanding finance, after which time an alternative plan, involving only the town frontage, would be worked up and submitted for funding approval. A finance sub-group will be reconvened to look at how funds could be raised.

The Steering Group also agreed that East Devon District Council would contact the district’s two MPs, Sir Hugh Swire and Neil Parish, to see if there is any financial assistance available to help plug the £1.5m funding gap.

Funding breakdown:

  • Present value design and construction costs : £8.9m
  • Present value post construction costs (maintenance): £4.7m
  • Present value total scheme cost: £13.6m
  • EA partnership funding score: 59%
  • Flood defence grant in aid: £5.7m
  • East Devon contributions required: £3.2m

Further information about the scheme and a timeline showing how the scheme has been progressed to date can be found on the East Devon website.

Cllr Geoff Jung, East Devon’s Environment Portfolio Holder, said:

The protection of the seafront of Sidmouth is important not only to the town, but also to Devon and nationally, as it is recognised as a jewel of a seaside resort with many fine Regency and Victorian buildings. We at East Devon recognise that this scheme will protect the residents of this important town, as well as houses and commercial properties, and we will continue to work with the community and partners to complete this scheme.

Cllr Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council’s representative on the Steering Group and Cabinet member for Highways Management, said:

Whilst delighted that at long last there was almost unanimous consensus to move ahead with the preferred option around the table. There is still a lot more work to be done with design and funding sources to be identified and secured before submitting the scheme to secure the much needed government finance. From a County Council perspective the indicated funding of up to £500k depends on  the raising of the splash wall to maintain the Highway asset and this is one aspect of the scheme that local residents can play an important part in designing.

Further information about the Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme can be found on the East Devon District Council web site.