It could be ready for start of 2022 season
The relocation of the club to a new home on the northern edge of the town is required as part of a £9m scheme to help restore the River Otter and to help avoid a ‘catastrophic breach’ of the failing 200-year-old sea defences.
The Lower Otter Restoration Project is investigating the possibility of restoring the estuary to a more natural state, reducing the impact of climate change while creating new habitats for wildlife and improving water quality.
The preferred option for the project, led by landowner Clinton Devon Estates and the Environment Agency, would see the Big and Little Marsh floodplain restored.
Breaches would be created in the Little Bank, the Big Bank and the River Otter Embankment, allowing water to flow through.
It will mean the relocation of Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club, but if plans are approved, the club could be playing at their new home in time for the 2022 season.
A planning application, drawn up on behalf of landowner Clinton Devon Estates in conjunction with the cricket club, includes a main cricket square, junior pitch, single-storey timber-clad pavilion, and equipment store.
The main cricket square would include 13 wickets, one of which would be an artificial surface, and the project has been designed to meet the requirements of both the club and the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board).
The 3.5-hectare site is currently largely agricultural land and is on the northern edge of the town off the B3178 East Budleigh Road.
Greg Evans, chairman of Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club, said: “Everyone in the area knows that for years we have faced problems with flooding at Ottermouth, so we would very much welcome a solution which would mean we could use our facilities year-round.
“We have worked closely with Clinton Devon Estates on the latest proposals which would provide us with a much more sustainable home, as well as improved facilities for all at our club.
“However, we do understand that these proposals are closely linked to the Lower Otter Restoration Project which will need separate planning permission and other consents further down the line in order to make progress.
“Should everything go to plan with this proposal and the wider Lower Otter Restoration Project, we’re looking forward to being able to move in for the start of the 2022 season. This would obviously mark a big change for the cricket club, having played at Ottermouth since the 1930s – but it is one that would give us certainty and a facility that could benefit the local community all year round.”
Dr Sam Bridgewater, from the Lower Otter Restoration Project, said: “Should the Lower Otter Restoration Project proceed, a new home will need to be found for Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club, a long-term tenant of Clinton Devon Estates.
“The project is exploring ways of managing the Lower Otter estuary in a more sustainable way, which would involve restoring large parts of the land around the mouth of the river to a more natural, wetland environment.
“This would improve the local ecology, and help the Otter Valley respond more naturally to the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather.
“Should the project proceed – and we do not yet have all the necessary permissions in place – it would also involve finding a new home for the cricket club.
“We know that a good cricket pitch takes a long time to be ready for play. We are applying for permission for the new ground now so that, if the wider project were to go ahead, the facility would be ready for its new occupants in good time.”
Last year, the Environment Agency confirmed its commitment to the Lower Otter Restoration Project while applications for funding grants are made, meaning work to manage the estuary can press ahead and avoid delays on delivering the scheme.
The preferred option, one of four initially presented to the public, would cost between £8 million and £9 million, secures and improves access to the South West Coast Path, protect the old municipal tip which lies in the floodplain from erosion, while also providing new benefits for both nature and the public, which are all key aims of the project.