Glass panel will be exposed to the elements to see if it is a sufficiently robust form of flood defence for Sidmouth
As part of work to progress the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan, a temporary glass splash defence test panel is due to be installed week commencing 20 January 2020 on top of the existing sea wall, mid-way between the York Street and Fore Street road junctions in Sidmouth.
The positioning of the panel on the sea wall at the front of the promenade is to ensure maximum exposure to the elements and to see how it performs next to the town’s shingle beach. This is a UK first, as previously no glass panels have been installed next to a shingle beach. Although the panel has been factory tested, it is important to see how it performs as a form of coastal defence against real winter storms. It will therefore be tested until the end of April 2020, when it will be removed.
A temporary sign will be installed adjacent to the panel to explain what the panel is there for, and to invite comments.
A splash defence is required to protect Sidmouth from flooding from storm events, which pushes large waves over the sea wall. The existing splash wall does a good job stopping sea water flooding the town, but with a predicted sea level rise due to climate change, and more extreme weather, it will no longer stop flood water entering the town, so it does need to be improved. In the South West, the Government is requiring coastal projects to have a minimum allowance for 1.2m of sea level rise in the future due to global warming and the district is already experiencing more frequent storm events, therefore the town’s defences need to be upgraded.
The new defence, if built, will be placed where the existing low splash wall sits between the esplanade and the highway. It is currently anticipated that this wall will need to be at one metre above the promenade to contain wave overtopping. Design details of the raised splash wall will be the subject of further work involving the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan steering group as well as future consultations. The sensitivities of any height increase to this defence are recognised and so a variety of design options are being investigated. This includes the possible use of glass sections of defence and this is the reason for the test.
Raising the height of the splash wall is one element of the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan’s preferred option, which is an integrated scheme of protection across the entire frontage of Sidmouth, involving 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.
Following the test, East Devon’s project team and its flood defence consultants Royal Haskoning DHV will assess how the panel performed and will also review feedback from the public. With this information, East Devon District Council will consider whether the glass panel is a viable solution capable of offering improved protection for Sidmouth.
Cllr Geoff Jung, East Devon District Council’s portfolio holder for the environment, said:
"A heightened splash barrier is acknowledged as being a requirement for part of the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan, which will provide the flood resilience required for the properties and businesses in Sidmouth as well as reducing East Cliff erosion. This is in response to increased severity of storms and sea rises due to climate change.
"It’s also acknowledged that a single solid barrier would have a severe visual impact on Sidmouth’s promenade. It is anticipated that glass panels may well provide a solution to the required protection and not impede the visual aspect of the much loved and historic promenade.
"A specific requirement of the government funding for this scheme is that every element must be adhered to and delivered in its entirety. Therefore without the proposed splash barrier we will not receive any government funding."
Cllrs Denise Bickley and Cathy Gardner, ward members for Sidmouth Town, Cllr Stuart Hughes, ward member for Sidmouth Sidford, and Cllr John Loudoun, ward member for Sidmouth Rural, said:
"Clearly there is a need to balance advice from qualified experts regarding flooding and rising sea levels with an aesthetically pleasing solution, as people are concerned about the visual impact of a splash barrier, but the esplanade is a conservation area so any scheme will need to get planning consent.
"We, as ward members along with other councillors and the conservation team will want to make sure the defence does not harm the sea front or have a negative impact on tourism. Access to the esplanade will be an important consideration too, with gates opened and closed appropriately. We are very interested to see the results of this test, and to use the information gained to move the project forward."
Further information about the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Scheme can be found on the East Devon website.
The recently updated FAQ section of the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Scheme provides useful and clear explanations of this complex project.