A new and improved multi-million Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme (BMS) could eliminate the need for a controversial raised splash wall on the seafront.
And, it would help to future proof the town against increased storminess due to climate change for decades to come.
The news comes following a meeting of the Sidmouth Beach Management Advisory Group, on Monday 25 October, which approved a new outline scheme costing up to £14million - providing the vital sea defences and coast protection the town needs, thereby better protecting the Esplanade and the town’s crumbling cliffs above East Beach.
An increase in DEFRA funding has allowed the group to spend the past six months to consider options previously dismissed because of a lack of funding.
The new funding has meant the group could look at new options that eliminate the need for a one-metre high splash wall to replace the current dwarf wall along the Esplanade, which some feared would be an eyesore and divide the town from the sea.
In the last six months, consultants Royal Haskoning DVH has looked at various options to see what is now feasible with the new funding.
This has included adding a further rock island or islands similar to the two already near the seafront, which were part of a short-list of options considered by residents in public consultations in 2016.
The current islands have provided good protection from westerly storms and have also created a large pebble beach at Clifton, which protects the west of the town. As a bonus a sandy beach has also appeared.
Having learnt from how well they work, the new outline scheme includes one, or possibly two extra rock islands, to the east of the current rock groynes – this would reduce the wave action during storms and help to protect the beaches. There will be further work to look at this in the detailed design stage.
On East Beach, the best option for the moment, is to build a large rock groyne and to recharge the beach – which is the process of replenishing it with pebbles to recreate a beach which has been lost.
Prior to EDDC taking on this challenging project, residents had asked for a rock revetment scheme to protect East Cliff. However, following Natural England’s concerns about the effects of a revetment on the World Heritage Site these earlier schemes were abandoned.
Once the outline scheme has been approved by EDDC’s Cabinet an 'outline business case' will be prepared and endorsed by the advisory group. It will then be submitted to the Environment Agency for the approval for the funds to be released. The detailed design stage can then begin and will include more studies and modelling - as part of this phase EDDC intend to hold public exhibitions to gain feedback on the designs. It is expected that some changes will be made to the current outline proposal at that stage. If the changes are substantial, the scheme may have to go through a ‘technical review’ before the finalised designs are put forward for planning permission. At this stage, further consultations with the public and official bodies will be carried out.
EDDC Councillor Geoff Jung, chair of the Sidmouth Beach Management Advisory Group, said:
I am really pleased that the advisory group today supported the recommendation to move onto the next stage for this important and critical project. This scheme has been very challenging for many years and agreeing to move on to the next stage is brilliant news.
We are more aware now, than ever before, of the effects of climate change on the sea and weather and how it could have serious detrimental consequences on Sidmouth, but this scheme is designed to help future-proof Sidmouth and its community by protecting properties and residents of Sidmouth, to retain its character and unique charm for the next 100 years.
I would like to personally thank the officers, consultants, and advisory group members for their diligence and hours of work to finally move on to the next stage.