Sidmouth aerial drone picture.

A new bigger, and better Sidmouth sea defence scheme is now back on the table after recent changes to the eligibility for funding from various bodies.

This excellent news from East Devon District Council (EDDC) was revealed in a public meeting with the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan Project Advisory Group on Thursday, February 24.

The additional funding eligibility has been made available because of changes to the funding matrix, by the Environment Agency and other bodies, for this long-awaited scheme.

This means the town could get the vital coastal defences it needs, better protecting the town from major storms and its East Beach cliffs from further erosion. The advisory group voted overwhelmingly in favour of pausing the current working draft option to look again at alternatives that were previously felt to be unaffordable.

An urgent report is now set to go before the EDDC’s Cabinet asking for councillors to decide whether they want to investigate options previously dismissed because of insufficient funding, including but not limited to offshore rock islands.

The current preferred option at Sidmouth is to invest around £9million in a coastal defence scheme which would involve beach replenishment, periodic beach recycling, a new rock groyne on East Beach and modifications to the River Sid training wall.

It would also include raising the height of the splash wall along the seafront slightly and then topping it up with temporary storm barriers or strong glass panels when needed.

If EDDC’s Cabinet agrees to investigate and test the feasibility of other options, it will take up to six months for engineers and specialist consultants to review and assess various alternatives.

Following the studies and investigations, a report would then be presented to the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan Project Advisory Group. Its members would be asked to recommend what the town would prefer to do – whether that would be to go ahead with the original preferred option or use the additional funding on a different option which may be more beneficial to Sidmouth’s coastal defences.

EDDC’s Cabinet will make the final decision on what option goes ahead.

If the green light is given for the current preferred option, construction could start within two years. There would also be a potential for this new extra funding to be used for future maintenance, ensuring the beach can be recycled/recharged.

However if a different more expensive option is chosen, then construction could take around four years to start.

Recommendation will also be made to EDDC’s cabinet that a temporary structure should be investigated to be placed at the base of the cliffs, should a new option be chosen incurring further project delay. This structure is to help protect the River Sid wall and low lying properties in the town and the properties above Sidmouth’s eroding cliffs.

Councillor Geoff Jung, EDDC’s portfolio holder for the coast, country and environment, said:

As the East Devon Councillor responsible for coastal protection, I would like to thank the advisory group for their contributions and assistance in providing the guidance and help on how we are to proceed with the scheme to protect Sidmouth seafront and East Beach.

The scheme that was originally underfunded and unpopular has now been provided with extra funding. This will enable an improved design that may overcome the more controversial elements of scheme.

Although the beach and the cliffs are protected as a ‘World Heritage’ site of the Jurassic Coast, it is hoped temporary time limited permission will be able to satisfy the regulations and conditions of the designated site, so are able to progress work not otherwise possible with a permanent scheme.

Once the final scheme is finally approved the stone used in the temporary revetment could then be used elsewhere within the scheme.