Exmouth seawall.
Exmouth seawall.

Works to repair Exmouth’s seawall, after it was damaged by storms last Autumn, is set to begin this month – with an expected completion date in late May – weather permitting.

After a serious failure to the seawall was reported, East Devon District Council (EDDC) with their contractors snapped into action, in such a short amount of time to protect the damaged wall by transferring thousands of tons of sand and putting large concrete blocks in place only hours prior to an impending storm.

Original plans, costing an estimated £1.1million in total, looked to start work in early 2024 but were delayed when surveyors reported worse than estimated ground conditions which meant further funding was needed.

Phase one of two is now expected to cost £1.5million alone – this funding was granted at the full council meeting on 6th March with money coming from EDDC capital funds, but some funding is expected to be partly covered by a central government contribution.

The council will now be looking to secure funds for phase two (western section) together with the wall cladding, which they hope to start work on later this year or early next year.

For now, phase one (eastern section) of the works will involve a steel sheet pile wall being installed through the ground and the wall. The steel piling wall will remain unclad during the summer, whilst the phase 2 section is planned and a consultation on the finished appearance of both phases will take place later this year.

To keep the public safe, the nearby footpath and cycleway will be closed, and a diversion will be put in place. A section of the Queen’s Drive carpark will be closed to provide storage and facilities for the contractors.

The contractors have also been given permission to work on Saturdays to ensure the work is completed by the summer tourist season, but for a 4-day break over the Easter Weekend.

This all comes following the damages caused by Storm Babet, in September 2023. In November, the sand level on this section of the beach dropped below the wall foundations with part of the wall fall forward and crack, revealing damages to 90 metres of the seawall. 

EDDC mobilised contractors within hours of the reported damage, with emergency temporary measures taken in the days before Storm Ciaran, to prevent a worsened situation and prevent flooding to the wider area behind the wall.

These temporary barriers successfully absorbed the energy of the waves and prevented further much more serious damage. Following the storm, contractors raised sand levels by the seawall and put additional concrete blocks in place.

Councillor Geoff Jung, EDDC’s portfolio holder for Coast, Country and Environment, said:

"Our engineers inspect all our coastal assets annually to full Environment Agency standards. Cracks in the masonry were noticed in April. However, before our planned survey to arrange repairs, an early September storm removed further sand and dramatically increased this cracking. Without the Engineers and contractors’ speedy reaction we could have been faced with a much worse situation to the seafront infrastructure.

“The works have now been scheduled into two phases to allow for the summer season to provide full public access to the promenade and beach, but during the works there will be some disruption which unfortunately cannot be avoided.”

Councillor Paul Arnott, EDDC's leader, said: 

"Before I became a district councillor, I and many others were aware of concerns in Exmouth about the risks in the previous administration funding a new road and encouraging development so close to the sea wall.

"Therefore, the council has referred this matter to our Scrutiny committee to look at the decision making process back then, which will inevitably be questioned by local people in Exmouth and beyond."