Photo from Exmouth beach towards Exmouth's seawall by Sideshore
Work underway at Exmouth's seawall by Sideshore

A further 150 metres of vulnerable seawall will be secured with a steel sheet pile wall in the second phase of repairs to Exmouth’s sea defences, planned for late September.

Phase two is projected to cost £1.627million of the estimated full project cost of £3.312million. East Devon District Council (EDDC) has allocated £1.5million to the work, with £1.72million of additional funding from central government.

Since March 2024, engineers have been working hard to put in place permanent measures strengthening Exmouth’s sea defences. A steel sheet pile wall has been installed through the ground and the 90 metres of failed wall, through the nearly completed first phase. This section is where sand levels had dropped below the foundations, causing the wall to fall forward and crack.

After a serious failure to the seawall in 2023, EDDC with their contractors snapped into action with emergency temporary measures taken to protect the damaged wall. Thousands of tons of sand were transferred, and large concrete blocks were put in place only hours before an impending storm. 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.

Minimising disruption to beach users during the busy summer season is important, so on-site engineering work has not been scheduled to take place during the school holidays. In the first phase, contractors have been working on Saturdays too, to complete the project more quickly.

Andrew Hancock, EDDC’s Assistant Director for Streetscene, said:

"Strengthening Exmouth’s coastal defences for the next 100 years is vital, with increasingly frequent, more severe storms an unfortunate consequence of the climate crisis.”

“Securing the seawall ahead of the winter storm season is an urgent task. The council’s engineers are working incredibly hard to ensure the best options are chosen in terms of financial costs and environmental impacts too.”

“EDDC would like to thank visitors, residents, and local businesses for their patience whilst this important work continues.”

Phase two was agreed by EDDC’s cabinet on Wednesday, 5 June 2024. Cabinet also considered historic decisions and reasons why the seawall failed, an issue that will be investigated further by a future Scrutiny committee.

Residents will be consulted on the appearance of the wall. The cladding of the wall and the replacement of a slipway (with full planning permission to be requested in due course), will be the focus of the third phase.

EDDC Cabinet agreed to the following:

  1. Approves the carrying out of further emergency (and permanent) repairs to Exmouth seafront in respect of Phase 1, Phase 2 and associated emergency works and grants delegated authority to the Director of Housing Health and Environment (initially and then to the new Director of Place) in respect of the project, in consultation with the Director of Finance, the Director of Governance and the Portfolio Holder Coast, Country and Environment.
  2. Approves total budget spend for the Phase 1 and Phase 2 works of £3.312m. Note no additional budget from EDDC required over the £1.5m already approved. £1.812m obtained from external funding.
  3. Supports the recommended option alignment and target start date for Phase 2 seawall repairs. However due to ongoing investigations, the final alignment decision being with the delegated officers as per recommendation 1.
  4. Given the emergency nature of the works, Cabinet notes the exemption to contract standing orders in respect of the design consultancy total spend for the sum of £300,000 that has been approved by S151 Officer and Monitoring Officer as provided for in the Constitution. This is an increase from 6th March 2024.
  5. Notes the decisions made to date on repairing the slipway.
  6. Notes the Outline Business Case submission to the Environment Agency for access to national funding.