Sidmouth finally has the £8.7million needed to protect its crumbling cliffs

A cliff fall at Pennington Point in March this year. Picture: Stuart Hughes

A cliff fall at Pennington Point in March this year. Picture: Stuart Hughes - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth finally has the urgent funds it needs for a multi-million pound flood defence scheme to protect the town from coastal erosion.

Urgent pleas were issued last year to help find the final £1million needed to ensure the town’s £8.7million beach management plan came to fruition, protecting the town for the next century. East Devon District Council has now revealed it will be receiving more than £1m from the Government, to bridge the final funding gap.

The work to protect Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs and improve flood defences is in line for the extra money following changes to the funding eligibility for flood and coastal risk projects.

The grant, which will need final approval by the Department for Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), will allow the project to proceed to the next stages.

The project team will draw up a full business case, produce detailed designs, and seek planning approval for the construction.

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The plan involves work to maintain the seafront sea defences, upgrade the western wall of the River Sid, and reduce the rate of beach and cliff erosion at East Beach, which threatens the River Sid defences, Alma Bridge and the clifftop properties at Pennington Point.

The preferred option for the Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme looked to see a new groyne installed on East Beach and the splash wall raised along the promenade. The project would also incorporate importing shingle on both East and Sidmouth beach, with the original hope that it would completed by 2020.

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Cllr Geoff Jung, chairman of the East Devon Sidmouth and East Beach steering committee, said: “Now the Sidmouth and East Beach BMP is most likely to be fully funded, the East Devon team can concentrate on finalising the details of the project, such as accommodating an attractive new splash defence along the Esplanade, improved slipway access and a recharged beach, which are all part of the preferred option, estimated to cost £8.7million.

“It is planned that as soon as is possible an exhibition and a ‘meet the team’ session will be held in Sidmouth, subject to coronavirus emergency measures, providing local people with the opportunity to see and understand the final designs.”

The project team said the proposed scheme will bring more than £137million in economic benefits and protect 120 properties from coastal flooding, in addition to those at risk from cliff erosion.

The news of the funding comes as the council prepares to remove the trial glass sea defence panel from the Esplanade next week following its test period.

The panel survived several heavy storms, but the side facing the Esplanade was vandalised in March.

It will go back to the contractors for a thorough examination to see if it is still a viable option for the future.

Read more here: Councillor welcomes Sidmouth coastal defence funding, but ‘it doesn’t address the present problem’.

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