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Sidmouth glass defence survives first test

Friday, February 14th, 2020 7:16am

By Daniel Clark, Local Democracy Reporting Service

It will be in place until the end of April

A temporary glass panel installed on Sidmouth seafront as a flood defence has survived its first test.

The splash defence is part of Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan that has been designed to try and protect the town from the elements and reduce the rate of erosion following several large cliff failures shown at Pennington Point and along East Cliff.

Having been battered by Storm Ciara over the weekend, Cllr Geoff Jung, Portfolio Holder for the Environment for East Devon District Council, said: “The panel is unscathed and has survived its first test. However that this is only the first storm it has had to brave, as there is another one coming this weekend.”

Storm Dennis is set to batter Devon this weekend, and two separate severe weather warnings, for wind and rain, are in place for Saturday and Sunday.

The weather warning for wind lasts from 10am on Saturday until 11.59pm on Sunday and warning for heavy rains runs from 12pm on Saturday until 9pm in Sunday evening.

Raising the height of the splash wall by one metre is one element of the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan’s preferred option, which is an integrated scheme of protection across the entire frontage of Sidmouth, involving 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.

But the proposals had upset local residents, who called the initial stone wall design ‘hideous’, ‘would ruin the town’ and ‘an eyesore that would mean the picturesque view of the Esplanade would disappear’.

As a result, and to recognise the sensitivities of any height increase, East Devon District Council are exploring a variety of design options are being investigated, including the possible use of glass sections of defence,

The glass panel has been installed at the top of the exisitng sea wall, mid-way between the York Street and Fore Street road junctions in Sidmouth, and will be in place until the end of April 2020.

Cllr Jung added: “The Storm Ciara event over the weekend and recent high tides has been a significant trial for our glass panel on Sidmouth Beach front.  The location was chosen to receive the maximum impact from the sea and pebbles. However, the splash barrier (if the trial proves it to be effective) is intended to be located between the highway and promenade, to a maximum of one metre high from the promenade floor level.

“We understand the local concerns regarding a raised splash barrier, but recent Government analysis for sea level rises confirm earlier studies that a raised barrier is a pre-requisite for the full Sidmouth and East Beach management Plan, and for the scheme to be effective looking to the future.

“We are required, within the plan, to provide protection to reduce the East Cliff erosion, protect the sea front from storm damage and reduce the risk of flooding to properties in the town by the sea overtopping.

“We are considering every possible way of reducing the visual impact but at the same time providing the protection required to protect residents and businesses in the town of Sidmouth.

“Fitting Glass sections, plus other possible initiatives will all be considered, prior to a public event (date to be confirmed) when all the options will be explained and consulted upon.

“This seafront location trial will allow us to analyse if glass sections can be used in a location such as Sidmouth.”

The preferred beach management scheme also consists of adding a new rock groyne on East Beach and importing new shingle onto Sidmouth Beach.

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 million still needed to be found.

The South West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (SWRFCC) have agreed to grant the BMP £500,000 to help bridge the effective funding gap, which had stood at £1.5million.

Cllr Cathy Gardner and Cllr Denise Bickley, ward members for Sidmouth Town, Cllr John Loudoun, ward member for Sidmouth rural, and Cllr Stuart Hughes, all said: “East Devon and the town council are working hard to find the contributions required to close the funding gap, currently around £1 million. We hope that the required funding can be found for this vital protection for our town. Climate change is increasing the risk of flooding from the sea and we need to address that risk. Unfortunately the government will not provide all the required funding which means the some of the funding has to be found locally.”

The planning and delivery of the Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme is included as a key objective as part of service plans for the council in 2020/21, with the funding gap required to be found by August  2020 as a shortstop deadline, and December 2020 as a longstop deadline. If by then the funding has not been found, the council will have to review the project.

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