New £14m Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme takes major step forward

Aerial photo of Sidmouth seafront showing where the new planned flood defences will be installed

Picture caption: The general outline for the new plans: Dark blue line – Splash wall to be raised along the majority of the Esplanade by approximately 10cm. Light blue line – this section will still have to be raised to about one metre. Yellow line – This is where the beach with be replenished with new beach material. Red circle – General locations of where the offshore island(s) can go. Green line – Where the rock groyne will be located. - Credit: East Devon District Council website

A new and improved £14 million Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme (BMS) could eliminate the need for a controversial raised splash wall on the seafront, as well as providing vital sea defences. 

East Devon District Council’s Sidmouth Beach Management Advisory Group has approved a new outline proposal that would better protect the Esplanade and the crumbling cliffs above East Beach. 

An increase in DEFRA funding has allowed the group, and their consultants Royal Haskoning DVH, to spend the past six months considering options previously thought to be too expensive,  

These options remove the need for a one-metre high splash wall to replace the current dwarf wall along the Esplanade, which some feared would be an eyesore and divide the town from the sea. 

They include plans for a further rock island or islands, similar to the two already near the seafront, which were part of a short-list of options considered by residents in public consultations in 2016. 

The current islands have provided good protection from westerly storms and have also created a large pebble beach at Clifton, which protects the west of the town. As a bonus a sandy beach has also appeared. 

The one, or possibly two, extra rock islands would be placed to the east of the current rock groynes, reducing the wave action during storms and helping to protect the beaches. There will be further work to look at this at the detailed design stage. 

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On East Beach, the best option is thought to be building a large rock groyne and recharging the beach – which is the process of replenishing it with pebbles. 

Residents had asked for a rock revetment scheme to protect East Cliff. However, following Natural England’s concerns about its effects on the World Heritage Site, the scheme was abandoned. 

Once the outline scheme has been approved by the council’s cabinet, an 'outline business case' will be prepared and endorsed by the advisory group. It will then be submitted to the Environment Agency to receive approval for the funds to be released. The detailed design stage can then begin and will include more studies and modelling - as part of this phase the district council intends to hold public exhibitions to gain feedback on the designs.

It is expected that some changes will be made to the current outline proposal at that stage. If the changes are substantial, the scheme may have to go through a ‘technical review’ before the finalised designs are put forward for planning permission, and further consultations with the public and official bodies will be carried out. 

Speaking after the meeting on Monday, October 25, Councillor Geoff Jung, chair of the Sidmouth Beach Management Advisory Group, said: “I am really pleased that the advisory group today supported the recommendation to move onto the next stage for this important and critical project. This scheme has been very challenging for many years and agreeing to move on to the next stage is brilliant news. 

“We are more aware now, than ever before, of the effects of climate change on the sea and weather and how it could have serious detrimental consequences on Sidmouth, but this scheme is designed to help future-proof Sidmouth and its community by protecting properties and residents of Sidmouth, to retain its character and unique charm for the next 100 years. 

“I would like to personally thank the officers, consultants, and advisory group members for their diligence and hours of work to finally move on to the next stage.” 

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