Shingle bells! Sidmouth seafront gets 600 tonnes of gravel for Christmas

Sidmouth beach shingle replenishment work begins

Sidmouth beach shingle replenishment work begins - Credit: Archant

Replenishment work to add ‘blanket of protection’ for town in response to concerns

Sidmouth beach shingle replenishment work begins

Sidmouth beach shingle replenishment work begins - Credit: Archant

Fears that Sidmouth’s depleted coastal defences left the town exposed and at risk from winter storms have prompted authorities to take action.

Responding to concerns this week, East Devon District Council (EDDC) started work to replenish 600 tonnes of shingle on east beach at an estimated cost of £1,000 - a fraction of the £100,000 spent in 2014/15, thanks to support from the Environment Agency (EA).

The material was deposited at School Weir on the River Sid in the wake of Storm Angus last month and EDDC, working in conjunction with the EA, dredged the site of shingle to redistribute along the shoreline.

Resident Robert Crick raised concerns about the depleted seafront at the last beach management plan (BMP) meeting and said he was worried the town had been left vulnerable to a bad winter storm.

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His fears were echoed by others, including district councillor and BMP steering group member Cathy Gardner, who said the £100,000 spent on replenishing the beach after the 2013 storms was ‘money down the drain’ - as it had mostly washed away.

Dave Turner, EDDC’s engineering project manager, said: “In response to concerns raised about reduced beach levels potentially putting Sidmouth at risk from winter storms, we have asked the South West Coastal Monitoring programme to undertake a survey of beach levels. This is now being reviewed.

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“We fully sympathise with the concerns of some members of Sidmouth’s community, which is why we took the decision to take advantage of the EA’s offer to let us transfer shingle to East Beach.“

Councillor Iain Chubb, EDDC’s portfolio holder for the environment, said: “We are grateful to the EA - key partners in the BMP scheme for Sidmouth - for letting us use its shingle to replenish the beach level.

“The timing, with the onset of winter, couldn’t have been more serendipitous and we hope that the new gravel will add a blanket of protection to Sidmouth over the coming months, reducing the impact of any storms.”

An EA spokeswoman said: “Beach levels in this area are known to be susceptible to change and the BMP will identify options to help manage beach levels to reduce the risk of flooding and erosion along the Sidmouth frontage.”

She added that additional funding made available to repair damage following the severe storms in 2013/14 is no longer available, but the BMP is being used to develop a business case to justify further beach management works at Sidmouth.

The EA said management of beach levels is an important factor in managing flood and erosion risk.

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