Government minister visits Sidmouth to discuss beach management plan

PUBLISHED: 15:21 21 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:21 21 September 2018

Tom Wright, chairman of the Sidmouth Beach management plan stakeholder group, with East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire, George Eustice, Minister of State for Defra, and Paul Griew at his garden in Cliff Road. Picture: Clarissa Place

Tom Wright, chairman of the Sidmouth Beach management plan stakeholder group, with East Devon MP Sir Hugo Swire, George Eustice, Minister of State for Defra, and Paul Griew at his garden in Cliff Road. Picture: Clarissa Place

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Beach management plan stakeholders say they have been left ‘encouraged’ following a visit by a government minister to discuss proposals to protect Sidmouth from coastal erosion and flooding.

Resident Paul Griew with Defra minister George Eustice during his visit to talk about the town's ongoing erosion concerns. Picture: Clarissa PlaceResident Paul Griew with Defra minister George Eustice during his visit to talk about the town's ongoing erosion concerns. Picture: Clarissa Place

George Eustice visited today to learn about the impact of the town’s ongoing cliff erosions, and met Cliff Road resident Paul Griew – who lost six metres of land, including his summerhouse, in a cliff fall last year.

The Minister of State for Defra was also joined by East Devon MP Hugo Swire and district councillor Tom Wright, chairman of the Sidmouth Beach management plan (BMP) stakeholder group.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) currently faces a funding gap of £2.4million to move ahead with its multi-million pound to install a rock groyne at East Beach. Mr Eustice said funding could be secured from the Environment Agency which has £885million to put towards collaborative projects on flooding and coastal protection if cases could show its business plans were ‘value for money’.

Mr Eustice said: “The Jurassic Coast is beautiful, that is why we like to come here with my family on holiday. It’s a beautiful coastline but it’s a very soft sediment and is prone to rapid erosion.

Inspecting the cliffs from resident Paul Griew's garden. Picture: Clarissa PlaceInspecting the cliffs from resident Paul Griew's garden. Picture: Clarissa Place

“We always need to make that money go as far as possible.

“You cannot solve every single problem, we have to realise the force of nature is stronger than us all. Sometimes we have to work with nature, there will be some properties that will be lost and we cannot do much about that.”

The district and county council have committed £500,000 each with Sidmouth Town Council contributing £100,000 towards the £3m needed to be raised locally towards the £8.9m scheme.

The Herald previously reported EDDC’s vision to complete the work by 2020 but would see the scheme delayed until a time when more funding can be made available.

Resident Paul Griew, who sits on the steering group for the BMP, said: “It’s good to have the minister here understanding what the problems are.

“We are a bit short on cash, we know the scheme we want and everyone is mostly agreed upon it. It probably will be the scheme we have if we get the funding we need.

“When the summerhouse went I lost six metres. My estimate is it will be 30 years and the house will start to be in danger. The view is worth it, just about. We are as close as we ever have been to getting something done. Things are moving forward.

Sir Hugo Swire said he was pleased the minister was able to come to Sidmouth after asking him to attend during a questions session in June.

Sir Hugo said: “For the first time in living memory we have a workable scheme. There is contention with the look of splashwall will look like. At the end of the day it’s the most realistic, it’s the most affordable.”

Councillor Tom Wright added: “I think having the minster here is encouraging in regards to funding, we would have more chance of getting funding with a minister behind us.”

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