Sidmouth beach management plan: way forward is agreed to help maintain a healthy eastern beach

Option 1 in the beach management plan

Option 1 in the beach management plan - Credit: Archant

The team leading Sidmouth’s beach management plan (BMP) has met with public agenies to discuss coastal flooding and erosion options for the town.

Representatives from Natural England, the Jurassic Coast Team, Environment Agency (EA) and East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) held talks with the district council and its consultants CH2M.

The preferred option for a long-term scheme was discussed. Two potential schemes are currently in the running.

An East Devon District Council (EDDC) spokeswoman said: “The project team explained that although offshore breakwaters (Option S4) were preferred technically, and potentially have less environmental impact, it was concluded that Option S1 (one or two groynes on East Beach) has a more realistic chance of obtaining the required partnership contributions locally, which is necessary to unlock the government funding required, and therefore more likely to be implemented in the necessary timescales.

“All the agencies are in agreement that, whilst it may be more in keeping with the environmental designations in this area to allow the continued erosion of the cliffs at East Beach, it is desirable to reduce the rate of erosion for cliff-top residents and to reduce the impact of waves on Sidmouth defences by maintaining a healthier beach there.

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“The shortlisted options are all likely to have a significant affect on the environmental and landscape designations at East Beach. Option S4 would primarily affect the setting of these designations (the landscape and seascape), as well as altering the views from the AONB and affecting below water habitats.

“Alternatively, Option S1, in addition to these impacts, may in part directly impact the designated geology itself.

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“The agencies are all satisfied that the council will seek to minimise as far as practicable the impacts of any beach management scheme during the outline and detailed design phase of the project. For example by offsetting groynes from the cliff face, or limiting the height or extent of any structure.

“No guarantee can be given at these early stages that a technically-viable beach management scheme would be environmentally acceptable.”

The spokeswoman said all of the agencies are supportive of Option S1 or S4 – subject to the council providing more detailed environmental assessments. These will need to have ‘particular emphasis’ on assessments of landscape, and seascape, visual impact; geomorphological and coastal processes; and ecology.

“The agencies are committed to working constructively with the council and the EA throughout the design process, to guide the implementation of a beach management scheme for Sidmouth and East Beach,” she added.

Councillor Andrew Moulding, chairman of the BMP steering group, expressed his gratitude to the agencies for their ‘continued support’ and said: “We’re pleased that through the beach management plan process, we’ve been able to agree a way forward to help maintain a healthy beach at East Beach, while respecting East Devon’s unique and internationally recognised coastline.”

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