Sidmouth Beach Management Plan: Motion backed calling on utility companies to contribute towards £9m plan

This photograph of Pennington Point and East Cliff was taken for the BMP by a drone at lower altitud

This photograph of Pennington Point and East Cliff was taken for the BMP by a drone at lower altitude. If you look carefully you can see circular waves with their centre at the end of the river training wall. This is wave diffraction and it can cause erosion. - Credit: Archant

Utility companies are being called on to make contributions towards Sidmouth’s £9million beach management scheme - with the full business proposal set to be discussed in coming months.

In the same week of cliff collapses at Jacobs Ladder and East Beach, East Devon District Council supported a motion calling on the Government to request electric, gas, telephone and water companies to be mandated to make a level of finance towards a scheme if its assets and infrastructure would be protected.

Councillor Stuart Hughes put forward the proposal at the full council meeting on April 24 as South West Water has not contributed towards the scheme – which stills needs to raise £2million locally.

The proposal will see a new groyne built to help keep shingle from being moved eastwards away from the vulnerable cliffs and a higher splash wall will capture water coming over the sea wall to prevent flooding.

The motion also stated that subject to the costs of any contribution not being borne by customers.

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Cllr Hughes said councils in North Norfolk and Great Yarmouth have signed a letter to the Government about how it is “inequitable” that water, electricity and gas companies do not have to contribute to projects managing coastal erosion.

Cllr Hughes said: “Utilities services will be protected by such works. However at present they don’t have to contribute and I don’t recall seeing any scheme that’s gone ahead receiving funding from either the electric, gas, or telephone companies. Water companies don’t always contribute and as far as Sidmouth is concerned, they haven’t come to the party with any promise of financial contribution.

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“This necessary work will protect not just homes and businesses but also important infrastructure and utilities.

“It seems fair and reasonable that all utility companies contribute towards the cost of coastal and flood protection works.”

The motion was seconded by Cllr David Barratt and Cllr Cathy Gardener, the latter who said she was not enthusiastic that it would work.

Cllr Barratt, who seconded the motion, said: “It is quite clear that South West Water should be giving a contribution to a scheme that will safeguard their units on the seafront at Sidmouth, but as well as this, we must continue our local attempts to try and persuade them to contribute and generally redouble our efforts to seek our partnership funding. It is desperately urgent that we move the beach management plan forward before we see Sidmouth falling into the sea.”

Cllr Gardener added: “The beach management plan process has been grinding on for years. We are now waiting for funding but I have no confidence it will be found. Something drastic for Sidmouth needs to change soon so that we can have a scheme that we can afford, as at the moment there is no sign of it.”

Cllr Tom Wright, the portfolio holder for the environment, told the meeting that a full business case for the Sidmouth beach management plan would come forward soon to the council.

He added that he totally supported the motion and said that the delay in the business case coming forward was to ensure that the design would actually work.

The scheme will cost £8.9m, with around £3m of funding needed to be provided locally.

The district and county council have pledged £500,000 each plus a donation of £100,000 from Sidmouth Town Council. Around £1million of local funding has been found.

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