Thursday, 28 July 2016

Beach Management Plan: "We cannot and will not request that expert advice is altered because some stakeholders are not getting the answers they wish to hear."

There is considerable confusion over what exactly has been chosen to protect the seafront:
Futures Forum: Beach Management Plan: Option 4b or not 4b >>> or: how to ignore everyone else's opinion 

It does seem that there has been a real difference of opinion as to how we have got to where we are:

Beach plan gets £54,000 despite project management concerns

By Peter Hodges - July 26, 2016

Option '4b' – illustrates how a more oblique angled offshore breakwaters layout could look

EAST Devon District Council’s Cabinet has approved £54,000, worth of funding towards the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan which will enable the planning stage of the process to be completed.

The costs of the project had risen as a result of a number of changes to it throughout its course, including requests from the steering group for additional work such as analysis by CH2M (the consultants on the scheme) to take into account local people’s anecdotal evidence and to provide a more detailed appraisal of the long list of options. The steering group is made up of statutory bodies such as the Environment Agency and Natural England, as well as community groups such as the Sid Vale Association and Vision Group for Sidmouth who provide valuable representation of local people.

Following public, council and steering group consultation, feedback suggested that an alternative option ‘4b’ was the preferred choice of the plans being put forward.

Around a third of those who responded in the consultation were in favour of the alternative ‘option 4b’, to remove the current rock groynes on the beach, construct more rock breakwaters further out to sea (similar to those already in place – at Sidmouth Town Beach) and periodically replenish and recycle the shingle.

However, concerns have been raised about the process of choosing the options, with two of the steering group members, East Devon District Councillors Cathy Gardner and Matt Booth, saying the steering group didn’t see the alternative option until the day after the public consultation held at Kennaway House.

In a joint statement Cllrs Gardner and Booth said: “An additional option was proposed at the meeting in January and an interim meeting agreed by the Chair to discuss it and to further discuss concerns held by steering group members about all of the options before the options were approved. That meeting did not take place and attempts to hold separate meetings to discuss concerns with the options were denied by EDDC.

“EDDC approved the options independently of the steering group, but took them to public consultation as if they had been approved by the steering group. That remains the case in the latest press release with regards to input on the options from SVA, VGS, Sailing Club, fishermen etc. This is misleading.

“The additional option was not discussed by the steering group until June 16th, the day after the public exhibition of the four options. After some discussion at that meeting it was agreed that the additional option, Option 4b, would be added to the website and in the press. However, a number of people expressed difficulty with accessing the website and making comments online.

“As Tony Burch (Assistant Project Manager and Senior Technical Consultant) and Tony Flux (who holds a senior position within the National Trust and a member of the BMP steering group) have both said it is essential that all options are exhausted to get this right – including tank testing. It is of great concern that this is being set up as a cost saving exercise and only one option will be tank tested. There is a real danger that it will not produce a result that will be approved by the Environment Agency or DEFRA and will not attract the partner funding that will be essential to deliver it.

“We are also troubled by the management of the project by EDDC and steering group governance which is not consistent with the BMP Terms of Reference. The Chair should be completely independent and act on behalf of the interests of all members of the steering group at all times. Cllr Moulding has shown in his recent letter to the media and other actions and statements that his own objective is that of EDDC.

“While we try at all times to work with the strategic management team at EDDC we have a duty to the electorate to raise issues where we believe we see them. It is very difficult to do so if we are not consulted on issues in our ward. We were voted in with a large mandate last May to a large extent because of the lack of transparency of East Devon District Council and the number of key issues including the BMP and Port Royal development that were due. We have not been invited onto the BMP steering group even though we are ward members. The BMP public consultation has given us reason to be concerned about the Port Royal scoping study and public consultation. Again this is something that we as ward members, since it was approved at Cabinet in January, have not been consulted on.”

Beach plan gets £54,000 despite project management concerns

This difference of opinion persists:

Chairman of Sidmouth Beach Management Plan denies project issues

By Peter Hodges - July 27, 2016

THE chairman of Sidmouth’s Beach Management Plan has called allegations about the transparency of the project unfair and unfounded.

Reported earlier this week, two East Devon District Councillors had raised concerns about the project and apparent lack of transparency.

In a statement Cllr Andrew Moulding read: “In terms of transparency, the Beach Management Plan process has been conducted in a completely open and clear-cut manner. You only have to look at the council’s website to see the wealth of information that has been made public. Furthermore, the Steering Group has an open and inclusive membership, including statutory bodies, including the Environment Agency and Natural England, as well as community groups such as the Sid Vale Association and Vision Group for Sidmouth, who provide valuable representation of local people.

“In my capacity as Chairman of the Steering Group, I have welcomed ward members and other stakeholders onto the group and ensured that all have an opportunity to make their views known to the group. All ward members are on the Steering Group mailing list and have been attending the meetings, contributing, and receiving the agenda and documents.

“Officers have had extensive email correspondence with the Steering Group and ward members explaining all aspects of the project whenever a query has been raised. Our recent public consultation event is another example of how transparent the process has been.

“It is worth remembering that the role of the Steering Group is to advise the Project Team and act as a critical friend. A reminder of the terms of reference were considered by the group at their last meeting, and have been included on our website.

“The council has been keen to take account of a wide variety of views throughout the BMP process, including the statutory partners, and individuals and organisations that are not represented on the Steering Group.

“Officers have given ward members a briefing on the project and stated at the time that if they want further briefings they only had to request them. No requests have been made.

“It should also be noted that we have internationally respected consultants working on this project who have extensive expertise in the subject and access to highly specialist advice. We are also following a nationally recognised process and good practice for producing a Beach Management Plan. The process ensures that there is a robust evidence base for beach management, and all of our statutory partners have confirmed that we have a fit for purpose process.

“We are working very closely with and have the support of the Environment Agency who will ultimately administer the grant for any beach management scheme. Healthy challenge is welcome, but we do need to respect the advice being provided by experts who have repeatedly addressed the issues raised. However, we cannot and will not request that expert advice is altered because some stakeholders are not getting the answers they wish to hear.”

Chairman of Sidmouth Beach Management Plan denies project issues

Here is the digital version: 
Pulmans View from Sidmouth - digital edition

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