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Time running out for beach plan money

Monday, September 2nd, 2019 3:22pm

By Daniel Clark, Local Democracy Reporting Service

There's a multi-million beach management plan to protect Sidmouth's cliffs from collapses

Time is running out to find the cash needed for a multi-million beach management plan to protect Sidmouth from its cliffs collapses.

The preferred beach management scheme consists of adding a new rock groyne on East Beach, importing new shingle onto Sidmouth Beach, and East Beach, and raising the existing splash wall along the rear of the promenade.

The scheme aims to maintain the 1990’s Sidmouth Coastal Defence Scheme Standard of Service and reduce the rate of beach and cliff erosion to the east of the River Sid. The plans would not stop cliff falls but would reduce the erosion from the toe of the cliffs, which would reduce the erosion rates.

Costs for construction of the scheme are estimated at £8.9million, with around £1.5 million still needed to be found.

A deadline of August 2020 has been agreed to source the outstanding finance, as after which time, an alternative plan, involving only the town frontage, would be worked up and submitted for funding approval.

Cllr Geoff Jung, East Devon’s Environment Portfolio Holder, said: “The protection of the seafront of Sidmouth is important not only to the town, but also to Devon and nationally, as it is recognised as a jewel of a seaside resort with many fine Regency and Victorian buildings.

“We at East Devon recognise that this scheme will protect the residents of this important town, as well as houses and commercial properties, and we will continue to work with the community and partners to complete this scheme.”

Cllr Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council’s representative on the Steering Group and Cabinet member for Highways Management, added: “While delighted that at long last there was almost unanimous consensus to move ahead with the preferred option around the table. There is still a lot more work to be done with design and funding sources to be identified and secured before submitting the scheme to secure the much needed government finance.”

He is also calling for the whole town to unite and support the preferred Beach Management Scheme as Sidmouth ‘is in the last chance saloon’ to get the preferred scheme.

Cllr Hughes added: “A huge, very complex, and time consuming piece of work has been undertaken in developing and delivering a Beach Management plan for the town, where many options were explored, town’s people consulted and a preferred scheme agreed, This scheme got the green light to be worked up last week and the town now needs to get behind it.

“We’re in the last chance saloon. Time is of an essence and all residents can get involved in helping design the raised splashwall element of the scheme which is needed to protect the highway asset and prevent the town and businesses from tidal flooding.

“Devon County Council is already delivering the new state of the art Alma Bridge at a cost of over £1m over the River Sid which depends on the planned Coastal defence aspect of the scheme east of the Sid to protect it from the elements.

“It is now down to the new council to deliver the agreed plan, secure the £1.5m shortfall needed to enable it to proceed and complete the work that has already been completed on the BMP by the previous administration.”

Members of the Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme Steering Group met on August 22 and there was almost unanimous agreement, bar two abstentions, to implement the preferred option.

The decision to accept the advice of the experts on the most appropriate scheme, balancing financial viability, technical performance and environmental impact, was supported by all the Sidmouth ward members present.

Work would involve beach replenishment, periodic beach recycling, a new rock groyne on East Beach, raising the height of the splash wall, and repairs to the river Sid training wall. Design details of the raised splash wall will be the subject of further work involving the steering group and future consultations and it is currently anticipated that this wall will need to be at one metre above the promenade to contain wave overtopping.

Sidmouth can only access £5.7million from the Government’s flood defence grant and needs to raise £3.2million locally.

East Devon District Council has committed £500,000, as has Devon County Council, while Sidmouth Town Council has put forward £100,000.

Contributions from other sources, such as South West Water, S106 contributions, Cliff Road residents, East Devon’s housing service, a local levy, Sidmouth Lifeboat and the Keith Owen Fund have also been pledged, but in the region of a further £1.5 million is still needed.

The draft outline business case has already been prepared, but needs full funding information before it can be submitted, and a deadline of August 2020 was agreed by the Steering Group in which to source the outstanding finance, after which time an alternative plan, involving only the town frontage, would be worked up and submitted for funding approval.

The Steering Group also agreed that East Devon District Council would contact the district’s two MPs, Sir Hugh Swire and Neil Parish, to see if there is any financial assistance available to help plug the £1.5m funding gap.

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