Plan to shore up Sidmouth’s beaches for the future

A view of the eroded cliffs from one of the gardens in Cliff Road Sidmouth. Photo by Terry Ife ref s

A view of the eroded cliffs from one of the gardens in Cliff Road Sidmouth. Photo by Terry Ife ref shs 7641-06-13TI To order your copy of this photograph go to and click on myphotos24 - Credit: Archant

East Devon District Council (EDDC) has announced the start of a 12 month project to create a new Beach Management Plan (BMP) for Sidmouth – designed to maintain and improve the town’s coastal defences whilst enhancing the area as an attraction for beach-users.

The council is to spend an estimated £75,000 on a data-collection and options appraisal aimed at producing maintenance and capital options that could attract funding from a number of sources, including the Government. The project is split into 5 stages: information gathering, baseline studies, issues, options and plan production.

A key part of the process will be talking and listening to the community. This started on Monday of this week when a preliminary meeting was held with representatives of the fishermen, sailing club and inshore lifeboat. There will be two special public engagement events – one in January and another later in the New Year, with dates to be confirmed.

The public will be invited to help in the information gathering phase of the project and then later will be able to comment on the alternatives from which a preferred option will be put forward to DEFRA, along with any bid for funding.

EDDC is tackling Sidmouth’s coastal defence issues in partnership with Environment Agency, Devon County Council, Sidmouth Town Council, the South West Strategic Regional Coastal Monitoring Programme and the Cliff Road Action Group (CRAG), following the setting up of a working group in 2011.

Research work aimed at gathering information to inform the new plan is now under way, with CH2M HILL Halcrow appointed as consultants. The company – formerly Halcrow Consulting – is now part of CH2M HILL, global consultants in design, construction and operations. Halcrow have previous experience of Sidmouth’s shoreline due to previous consultation work they have done for EDDC.

The working group, chaired by EDDC Deputy Leader Andrew Moulding, was set up to promote the production of a BMP for Sidmouth and East Beach. The aim is to ensure that Sidmouth’s sea defences are performing as expected and to address the increase in erosion along East Beach, which is threatening Alma Bridge, the River Sid flood defences (and in turn the town centre) as well as cliff-top properties.

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Consultants CH2M HILL Halcrow have been commissioned to produce a BMP for the coast from Jacob’s Ladder to approximately 200 metres east of the River Sid, and including the River Sid up to the weir.

Councillor Moulding said: “We believe it’s vital to include the local community in the development of the BMP. That’s why we will be producing briefing notes to inform people about the project and we will be holding two drop-in events so that local people can have their say.

“There is a wealth of knowledge among local people, about the coast, the topography and history of the area and also the various activities that take place on and from the beach. It’s important to take this into consideration so that any eventual proposals are not simply engineering solutions but something that enhances Sidmouth’s beach appeal”.

Beaches have a wide variety of uses and functions, including amenity, recreation, commercial and community uses and coast defence, habitat and earth science functions. All of these have social, environmental and economic value. In this case their coastal defence function is to help protect Sidmouth town centre from tidal flooding and to protect Sidmouth’s cliffs from tidal erosion.

BMPs are a way of providing a coastal defence plan for beach management at a local level that takes into account and, where possible, promotes or enhances the other uses and functions of a beach.

A BMP establishes a means to control the physical form of beaches and the general beach environment, and to promote good practice within the environment. It does not include day-to-day amenity or recreational activities such as beach cleaning, bathing safety and water quality management.

The 1998 Sidmouth Sea Defence Scheme relies on the offshore breakwaters, the rock groynes, minimum beach profiles between Chit Rocks and the River Sid and the sea wall to provide protection. Because the beach is mobile, these profiles need to be maintained over the 100-year lifetime of the scheme, so the Scheme included a plan for maintaining them – the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan (BMP1).

The purpose of the new project is to review the existing Sidmouth BMP and develop it to include the beach to the east of the River Sid, ‘East Beach’, where significant cliff erosion is taking place, and produce a Sidmouth and East Beach Beach Management Plan (BMP2). The purpose of BMP2 is to provide a detailed plan for managing the structure and profile of the two beaches.

The aims will be to:

1. Maintain the 1990s Sidmouth Coastal Defence Scheme’s Standard of Service.

2. Reduce the rate of beach and cliff erosion to the east of the River Sid to an agreed historic rate.

3. Carry out (1) and (2) in an integrated, justifiable and sustainable way.

BMP2 will check the viability of options for achieving these aims over a 100-year planning horizon and recommend preferred options for doing so. It will also set out what monitoring and maintenance work needs to be carried out over the five years that follow publication and adoption of the Plan.

Anyone who wants to be involved should visit the two community engagement events. They will be exhibition/drop-in type events at which members of the community can ask questions and provide comments and information for the project team.

The first community engagement event is scheduled for January 2014. It will provide information about the project, what it is aiming to achieve in more detail (including the objectives) and more information about Stages 1 to 5. It will be an opportunity to find out more about the project and comment on its Aims and Objectives, as well as sharing local knowledge with the project team.

Details of the first community engagement event will be made public early in the New Year through the Press and EDDC’s website and social media channels.

The second community engagement event will be held during the option development phase, Stage 4, to allow the local community to give their views on the management options identified by the project team. Details of when and where this second community engagement event will be held will be publicised nearer the time.

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