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Contractors appointed for rebuild of Dawlish sea wall

It aims to improve the long-term resilience of the railway

Contractors have been appointed for the project that will see a new sea wall built at Dawlish, with work set to begin in the next few weeks.

The £30m scheme will raise the wall from its current height of 5m to 7.5m, widen the walkway to 4m from its current 3.1m width, and include a barrier between the pedestrians and the edge of the to stop people falling off the wall.

The design is set to prevent stormy conditions from damaging the railway at Dawlish and aims to improve the long-term resilience of the railway linking Devon and Cornwall to the rest of the UK

There had been concerns that the height of the scheme will ‘destroy Dawlish’s charm and stop people visiting the town’, but Teignbridge District Council’s planning committee, when they agreed the plans in April, agreed that the future of the railway line was paramount.

Network Rail has awarded the contract for reconstruction of the Dawlish sea wall to BAM Nuttal and work will start at the end of May.

The works are expected to take nine months to complete, with work stopping during the peak summer season to minimise disruption on tourism in the area.

David Lovell, Network Rail senior programme manager for the Dawlish sea wall project, said: “We are delighted to have awarded the contract to BAM Nuttall and we look forward to working with them on delivering this vital upgrade that will protect the rail artery to the south west for the next 100 years.”

Network Rail western route managing director Mark Langman, added: “While developing our plans we have listened to the views put forward by the community. Our plan for the new sea wall will minimise its impact on Dawlish sea front while providing the appropriate level of protection from extreme weather for the railway and the town.

“The new sea wall will protect this vital rail artery to the South West for the next 100 years. World leading engineers have designed these plans, having considered hundreds of other options, and it will ensure the railway line is more resilient to extreme weather and rising sea levels for generations to come.”

But when the plans went before Teignbridge’s planning committee, councillors raised concerns about the height and design of the new sea wall.

Cllr Martin Wrigley, who represents the Dawlish Central & North East ward and who is a trained engineer, said: “There is no doubt that an improved wall is needed.  There is no doubt that it needs to be higher than the existing wall, and there is no doubt that it needs a bullnose return, or a true wave returning feature.”

But he questioned the specific design of the wall that had been proposed by Network Rail. He said that the proposed wall will both not stop overtopping, and has been raised in height to the levels to protect pedestrians over and above the height needed for the trains, it could make flooding in Marine Parade worse, and the design should be amended to have the sea return features built into the main wall to improve resilience and increase the life of the wall.

He added: “The Kings Walk at Marine Parade is iconic, and the concrete brutalist design would be a significant body blow to the town and our economy.

“The current seawall provides a view, not just out to the far horizon of the sea, but more importantly of the beach, the breaking waves on the shore and the immediate area.”

Town councillor Gary Taylor added that the proposed sea wall would have a significant impact on the town centre and on Dawlish as the public views are considered an amenity.

He added: “Such an imposing and brutalist concrete structure has no place in Dawlish. This is a poorly considered scheme will have a negative impact on Dawlish.”

But outlining the proposal, planning officer Helen Addison said that unless the design or external appearance would injure the amenity of the neighbourhood and is reasonably capable of modification to avoid such injury, the committee should approve the scheme.

She said that the new concrete sea wall that would be 2.5m higher than the existing wall, but it was the height needed in order to provide the solution that Network Rail require.

Councillors voted to approve the plans unanimously, after an initial call to review the design and height of the wall and particularly the 1.1m concrete parapet, due to concerns on amenity, drainage, water safety, flood conditions and debris, was lost by 10 to six.

The Government in February announced £80m of investment to raise the Dawlish seawall, but the report states the cost of delivering the proposed works is only £30m Future applications are anticipated for future phases of resilience works.

Huw Jones, Rail Divisional Director at BAM Nuttall, said: “We have a long association working at Dawlish, and successfully delivered emergency recovery of the railway during 2014. We’re proud to have been awarded this project to help secure this vital piece of the UK railway, for the community to rely on, over many years to come.”

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