Long-awaited Sidmouth beach management plan set to be published in January

Cliff fall on Sidmouth's east beach

Cliff fall on Sidmouth's east beach - Credit: Archant

Two coastal defence options remain on the table

A long-awaited beach management plan (BMP) to shore up Sidmouth’s coastal defences and protect the town is finally set to be published in January.

Two options remain on the table as the project moves on to the next stage, but divisions remain over which solution to manage flood risk and reduce erosion should be pursued.

The BMP steering group – made up of local authorities, community groups and regulatory and public bodies – was told option four, a series of break waters, was the best choice technically and environmentally.

But with £11million in partnership funding needed to implement the latter, option one – installation of one or two rock groynes on east beach – has been identified as the ‘preferred’ solution in terms of technical and economic viability.

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The Environment Agency (EA) and Natural England have backed the project so far and a specially-formed sub committee is now seeking partnership funding sources for both options.

The chairman of the steering group, Councillor Andrew Moulding, said: “Option one is the actual preferred option that has been recommended to be progressed, as it is one that gives the best balance between technical viability, environmental acceptability and economic case. Its £2.3million required level of funding contribution is more realistically achievable and has the greater chance of being implemented in the shortest amount of time.”

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But some representatives on the steering group say they have not been listened to and argue more detailed costings for each scheme are still required.

BMP steering group member Robert Crick said: “We have to welcome that the two options are still being considered. It’s a 100-year project so it’s got to be effective and it’s no good spending public money on something that will not work. The consultant said option four was the best in terms of engineering and it’s the best environmentally.”

An independent expert from the Flood Hazard Research Centre has reviewed the plans and issued recommendations to bolster the economic case for the BMP and access additional funding from central government.

The steering group is now reviewing a more detailed briefing document, with expectations that a tender process to appoint a consultant will begin in March 2017.

An outline business case for the project is planned for completion in June 2018.

Martin Davies, flood risk adviser for the EA, said: “Both options identified within the BMP will help manage the ongoing and future flood and erosion risk at Sidmouth.

“To obtain government grant funding toward the beach management scheme, a more detailed business case now needs to be developed. To be successful in obtaining funding approval for the scheme, the EA’s national approval board will seek assurance that any further funding required, in addition to eligible grant, is secure.”

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