Saturday, 27 April 2019

Beach Management Plan: "Something drastic for Sidmouth needs to change soon so that we can have a scheme that we can afford, as at the moment there is no sign of it."

The District Council considered a motion to push for South West Water to contribute to the Beach Management Plan for Sidmouth:
Futures Forum: Beach Management Plan: pressure on utility companies to contribute to costs

The context is that the cliffs are not being protected - and so are collapsing:
Futures Forum: Beach Management Plan: urgency for action after further cliff falls - but what action?

The trouble is that the solution being pushed by the District Council is not universally accepted as the best:
Futures Forum: Beach Management Plan: businesses oppose seawall and stakeholders demand clarity

The District Council's 'preferred option' of groynes is not the preferred option of the local stakeholders on the BMP steering group:
Futures Forum: Beach Management Plan: breakwaters rather than groins/groynes
Futures Forum: Beach Management Plan: "There is widespread scepticism of the process and little regard shown to the local understanding of what the real issues might be."

Returning to the ploy to get SWW to contribute, the District Council is desperate to cover the costs of its plan that almost no one in Sidmouth wants:
Futures Forum: Beach Management Plan: still a funding gap of £3.3million 

And so at the last District Council meeting last week when the idea of approaching SWW was debated, there was also debate about the desirability and viability of the 'preferred option' - which does not have the necessary funding and probably never will: 

Wednesday, 24th April, 2019 6.00 pm

The Chairman welcomed those present and invited members of the public to address the Council.

The next speaker was Richard Eley who wanted to discuss the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan, which was also related to climate change. He outlined the situation facing Sidmouth in terms of rapid erosion and the likely risk of flooding, with a severe storm potentially bringing about inundation of the town centre. He stated that there needed to be a serious discussion about how to progress this in the face of unlikely assistance from the government. He had resigned from the Group two years ago but stated that there was now more data available and greater understanding of possible solutions available in order to generate effective change. He wanted to thank John Golding and Dave Turner for their hard work.

In response, the Portfolio Holder for the Environment, Cllr Tom Wright, stated that he had been chairing the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan Group for the last year. A fully designed and costed Plan is currently being prepared which will be brought to a meeting next month, which it is hoped will satisfy the Environment Agency and assist the Group in getting funds to prevent flooding. The nature of the meetings has much improved and Cllr Wright stated that he was confident a Plan will be produced which will safeguard Sidmouth from the risk of flooding in future.

Motion - Government support requested for financial contributions from utility companies to flood and coastal protection schemes

Cllr Gardner had been involved with the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan Group, but had also resigned due to lack of progress and no sight of a scheme which was affordable, or which was likely to achieve government support or which utilities companies would contribute to. She would support the Motion because it would affect her ward, without conviction that it would change matters.

Cllr Ingham commented that if EDDC tried to prescribe how SWW raised the funds to contribute to schemes they would not agree. It was inevitable that they would pass on costs to the customer.

Cllr Wright stated that he supported the Motion but clarified that the funding gap was now £2m rather than £3m. He was confident that a full Business case would soon be available to be put to Council which would help in obtaining the necessary funding.

The Chairman asked Cllr Hughes to give his right to reply.

Cllr Hughes stated that in North Norfolk, Anglian Water had acted positively by endorsing the fact that they should be contributing to coast and flood defence schemes.

The Chief Executive read out the amended motion with a slight re-wording as follows;

‘That the Government ensures that where their assets and infrastructure will be protected by a flood and coastal protection scheme all utility companies are required to make a proportionate and appropriate mandatory level of financial contribution towards that scheme, and subject to the costs of any contribution not being borne by the utilities customers‘.

Having agreed the re-wording the Chairman put the motion to the vote.


that following a vote, the motion proposed by Councillor Stuart Hughes and seconded by Councillor David Barratt was carried with 2 against.

Agenda for Council on Wednesday, 24th April, 2019, 6.00 pm - East Devon
Printed minutes 24th-Apr-2019 18.00 Council.pdf

Devon Live carries a report: 

The plan to protect Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs is set to be finalised

Councillors also agreed to call on utility companies to be forced to contribute towards coastal defence schemes

Daniel Clark Local Democracy Reporter
26 APR 2019

The full business case for a plan to stop Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs from crashing into the sea and the town being flooded is set to come forward in the next couple of months.

The proposed scheme for the East Devon town will see a new groyne built to help keep shingle from being moved eastwards away from the vulnerable cliffs and a higher splash wall will capture water coming over the sea wall to prevent flooding. The scheme will cost £8.9m, but currently has a funding shortfall of around £2m.

East Devon District Council on Wednesday night agreed to support a motion calling on the Government to request electric, gas, telephone and water companies to be mandated, where their assets and infrastructure will be protected and benefit from them, to make a proportionate and appropriate mandatory level of financial contribution towards that scheme, and subject to the costs of any contribution not being borne by customers.

Option 1 - The preferred option that the beach management plan for Sidmouth has identified is to construct one or two new rock groynes along East Beach over a distance of up to 200m east of the River Sid and to modify the length of the seaward end of the River Sid training wall and East Pier rock groyne to improve sediment transport between Sidmouth Town Beach and East Beach. This would be supported by importing new shingle and moving shingle along the beach as required.

It was put forward by Cllr Stuart Hughes as in Sidmouth, South West Water infrastructure will be protected if the scheme is built, but they have not contributed financially to the near £9m scheme.

Wednesday night’s full council meeting also heard from Cllr Tom Wright, the portfolio holder for the environment, that a full business case for the Sidmouth beach management plan would come forward soon to the council.

Cllr Wright said: “In the next month or so, the full business case will come to the council. Then we will know how much we are looking for, and I am certain that once we have the business case evaluated and costed, it will help us to find our funding.” He added that he totally supported the motion and said that the delay in the business case coming forward was to ensure that the design would actually work.

Proposing the motion, Cllr Hughes said: “Utilities services will be protected by such works. However at present they don’t have to contribute and I don’t recall seeing any scheme that’s gone ahead receiving funding from either the electric, gas, or telephone companies. Water companies don’t always contribute and as far as Sidmouth is concerned, they haven’t come to the party with any promise of financial contribution

“This necessary work will protect not just homes and businesses but also important infrastructure and utilities. In Sidmouth, for example, the South West Water infrastructure and other utilities will be protected from the incursion of the sea and erosion when the scheme is delivered. It seems fair and reasonable that all utility companies contribute towards the cost of coastal and flood protection works.”

He added that North Norfolk District Council and Great Yarmouth Borough Council had already signed a letter to government ministers saying it is “inequitable” that water, electricity and gas companies do not have to contribute to projects managing coastal erosion, so East Devon would not be acting alone, and that Anglian Water had said that they endorse the principle of utilities contributing towards the costs of coastal protection where they have assets in vulnerable areas.

Cllr David Barratt, who seconded the motion, added: “It is quite clear that South West Water should be giving a contribution to a scheme that will safeguard their units on the seafront at Sidmouth, but as well as this, we must continue our local attempts to try and persuade them to contribute and generally redouble our efforts to seek our partnership funding. It is desperately urgent that we move the beach management plan forward before we see Sidmouth falling into the sea.”

Cllr Cathy Gardner said that will she supported the motion, she was not enthusiastic that it would work. She added: “The beach management plan process has been grinding on for years. We are now waiting for funding but I have no confidence it will be found. Something drastic for Sidmouth needs to change soon so that we can have a scheme that we can afford, as at the moment there is no sign of it.”

She also added that she thought that if the utility companies were forced to contribute, she expected that the costs would be passed onto customers anyway.

The motion was discussed in the same week where rubble crashed to the ground down at Jacob’s Ladder beach on Easter Sunday, in full view of hundreds of sun seekers and that at the other end of the seafront, on the precarious East Beach, there was a massive landslide that saw rubble crash down and block off a cave that was opened up following a previous cliff fall.

East Devon District Council subsequently reissued a warning to members of the public that the cliffs pose a very real danger and caution must be exercised when visiting them and the beach, and not to ignore warning signs, and not to sit directly beneath them.

The proposed beach management scheme aims to reduce the risk of flooding to Sidmouth by maintaining the standard of defences along Sidmouth Beach, and to reduce the rate of erosion to the cliffs.

The scheme will cost £8.9m, with around £3m of funding needed to be provided locally. £500,000 of this will be provided by East Devon District Council, with £500,000 set to be committed by Devon County Council and £100,000 from Sidmouth town council. Around £1m of local funding has been found, Cllr Wright announced, meaning roughly £2m more needs to be found.

The plan to protect Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs is set to be finalised - Devon Live

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