1% turnout for Sidmouth beach protection vote

Option Four

Option Four - Credit: Archant

The public has spoken and more breakwaters are the preferred choice to shore up Sidmouth seafront – but less than one per cent of the town’s population turned out to vote.

Responding to the beach management plan (BMP) consultation, they voiced concerns about the potential visual impact of any future scheme, the risks of removing existing defences and the timescale of the works.

Cabinet members last week signed off another £54,000 in funding for the project so consultants CH2M can take into account the community’s anecdotal evidence and to provide a more detailed appraisal of the options.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) can access around £5million from the Government, which means it will need partnership funding of up to £15million to implement the new defences.

BMP steering group chairman Cllr Andrew Moulding said: “It is important that people recognise the problem of finding what amounts to a significant amount of money.

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“The council will do its best to secure financial support from a range of sources, including those residents and businesses in Sidmouth who benefit directly, but, critically, we simply do not have that amount of money at our disposal.

“People need to be aware that the preferred option will need to be one that is financially viable, if it is ever to be implemented.”

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Only 100 people responded to the BMP consultation and the favourite, with a third of votes, was Option 4 – to remove the current rock groynes and construct more breakwaters along the seafront.

An EDDC spokeswoman said this was a good level of response and there was input from ‘fishermen, surfers, beach users, hoteliers and other local businesses’.

Option 4B was in joint second place with Option 1, which would see the existing defences essentially maintained with another one or two groynes built on east beach.

Option 4B was supported by Sidmouth Town Council and the Sidmouth sub-group of the steering group, although it was only included once the consultation was under way.

The Option 4B proposal was to remove the rock groynes on the shore and create four new offshore ‘reefs’, but, at £20million, the estimated cost is twice that of the cheapest option.

Respondents also had a chance to comment during the consultation.

Concerns were expressed over the visual impacts, with a number of people commenting that additional breakwaters would be an eyesore and put off tourists. Some people highlighted the need to protect the town from south-easterly storms, as well as south-westerly ones.

Concern was raised about removing some of the existing shoreline structures, which have provided ‘excellent’ defence to Sidmouth for the past 20 years.

There was general concern about the timescale and a consensus that work needs carrying out.

There were also comments about the inclusion of a jetty or harbour, which people are keen to see in place, and this can be given further consideration as part of the outline design for the preferred option.

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