Sidmouth beach plan: ‘too big a decision to get wrong’

Matt Booth

Matt Booth - Credit: Archant

Serious concerns remain whether the ‘technically preferred’ solution to shore up Sidmouth seafront has been given fair consideration – and if enough is being done to find funding.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) looked set to choose the least expensive scheme, option one, but last week agreed to keep option four on the table.

The schemes will need partnership funding of £2.3million and £11million, respectively – and EDDC wants residents and businesses who will benefit from its beach management plan (BMP) to contribute.

District councillor Matt Booth said this approach was ‘completely bizarre’ and suggested the authority was ‘failing in the most basic of tasks’. He added: “If the people of Sidmouth are to be expected to put their hands in their pockets to help fund this, then they deserve a proper consultation, with clear evidence on all options, including the long-term impact of each on flooding, erosion and amenities, plus a full breakdown of the actual spend by EDDC on the BMP to date.”

Cllr Booth has questioned the transparency of the process, and why option 4B was only added once a public consultation was under way.

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This option proposes a series of breakwaters angled towards the seafront that proponents say could create sandy stretches of seafront. EDDC’s consultants, CH2M, said it would be most effective, but had the ‘worst economic case’.

More affordable is option one, which proposes installing one or two groynes on East Beach. There would be ongoing costs for shingle recycling.

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EDDC said some initial work had been done looking at funding sources, but securing £11million for option 4B looked ‘unlikely’.

After pressure from the BMP steering group, the authority agreed to look again at funding options over the next six months.

Vison Group for Sidmouth Futures Forum chairman Robert Crick told the Herald there are ‘major discrepancies’ in the predicted costs of modelling and maintenance, the risks of option one had been underestimated – and the amenity benefits of option 4B ignored.

Alan Darrant, chairman of the Sid Vale Association: added: “It is good that EDDC is considering the options: this is too big a decision to get wrong. The groynes and rock islands of a quarter of a century ago seem now to be accepted as not the best solution.

“We can’t afford to waste another 25 years – the consequences could be disastrous.”

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