D-day looms on option to protect £85m of Sidmouth property

The alternative to Option Four, with the breakwaters rotated

The alternative to Option Four, with the breakwaters rotated - Credit: Archant

Decision day is looming on a scheme to shore up Sidmouth seafront – and campaigners hope district chiefs make a ‘worthwhile investment’ to protect property worth £85million.

Option 1 in the beach management plan

Option 1 in the beach management plan - Credit: Archant

The ‘final preferred option’ will be confirmed with the beach management plan (BMP) steering group on Wednesday (August 17) and it has been recommended that East Devon District Council (EDDC) selects Option 1.

In a report, consultants CH2M say Option 1 - constructing one or two groynes at east beach - gives the best balance between technical viability, environmental acceptability and economic case.

But the Vision Group for Sidmouth’s Futures Forum met stakeholders on Monday who are appealing for EDDC to choose Option 4B (pictured on page one) – the most expensive, to install breakwaters at an oblique angle to the seafront.

The CH2M report reads: “On the face of it, the technically preferred option that best achieves the project objectives is Option 4 [breakwaters] and its variants. However, this is also the most expensive option with the worst economic case.

“Even under the ‘best case’ scenario, more than £11m of funding contributions would be needed to unlock the Government grant-in-aid funding accessed through the Environment Agency (EA).”

The CH2M report says the EA needs assurances that partnership funding can be secured, adding: “Discussions with EDDC have indicated that this level of funding contribution is not affordable to the council at this time.”

Most Read

The consultants instead recommend progressing Option 1, as the £2.3million contribution needed in a ‘best case’ scenario is ‘more realistic’.

It adds: “This therefore provides a greater chance of project assurance in the shortest amount of time, thus enabling the necessary investigations and detailed design work to implement a scheme to be carried out as soon as possible.”

Futures Forum chairman Robert Crick said: “We hope to work with EDDC to find ways of mitigating the cost of Option 4B.

“We would like to explore a range of funding sources to achieve this outcome, particularly if this is also confirmed as acceptable for the various statutory bodies, such as Natural England, which have vetoed previous proposals over the years.

“Sidmouth needs to protect its eastern cliffs, which have taken a terrible battering over the past 20 years, by improving the eastern beach using the natural energy of the sea. The investment would be more than worthwhile in the long term. It will be good for tourism as well as the environment.”

Sid Vale Association chairman Alan Darrant added: “The investment in what [CH2M] describes as ‘the most effective solution’ would be more than worthwhile in the long term. It will be good for tourism as well as protecting the town from flooding.”