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Sidmouth beach protection plan estimate rises by £5m

By Will Goddard

18th Jul 2022 | Local News

Sidmouth Town Beach (Nub News, Will Goddard)
Sidmouth Town Beach (Nub News, Will Goddard)

Work to protect Sidmouth's beaches is likely to cost £5m more than expected, East Devon District Council has said.

Plans for new coastal defences include at least one more rock island (perhaps reducing the need for a controversial Esplanade 'splash wall'), a 120m rock groyne at East Beach, and a recharge of both the Town Beach and East Beach.

Estimates for the project have risen from £14m to £19m. The hike is being put down to a host of issues affecting the whole country, including material costs rising by up to 200 per cent, diesel costs rising by 50 per cent, staff shortages caused by a smaller labour pool after Brexit, Covid issues, the Russian invasion of Ukraine increasing energy costs, and construction risk such as the availability of materials and equipment and the danger of cliff falls at East Beach.

Despite this, the district council and its Sidmouth and East Beach Beach Management Plan Project Advisory Group are proposing to go ahead to the next stage and secure extra funding from the government or by bridging the shortfall if required.

The project was originally costed using 2020/21 prices, with funding coming from EDDC, Devon County Council, Sidmouth Town Council and the South West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, along with DEFRA grant funding. 

Cllr Geoff Jung, EDDC's portfolio holder for coast country and environment and chair of the Sidmouth BMP Project Advisory Group, said: "The estimated uplift in costs is most worrying, but the advisory group considers that these works must proceed urgently to protect Sidmouth from the increasing risk from predicted storm events due to climate change.

"Therefore, the recommendation to proceed to the next stage will be put to a full council meeting shortly. I would like to thank our engineers' officers, consultants and all members of the advisory group for all their work to get to this important stage."

Work on the new coastal defences is hoped to be able to start in spring 2025. In the meantime, the district council will apply to the Environment Agency for funding, work on the design, and hold a public consultation among other things.

Anticipated timeline

·      Late summer 2022 – Submit the funding case for approval to EA, which if successful, secures the funding in principle. Approval should be granted by autumn 2022. 

·      Late autumn 2022 – Work on the scope of the detailed design stage with a sub group made from members of the Sidmouth and East Beach BMP Project Advisory Group. They will help represent Sidmouth residents, providing guidance on what the town needs from the scheme, what it looks like, how it will work and how it will be designed and built. This will include discussions on the number and position of additional rock breakwaters.

·      Early 2023 – Finalise the scope for the detailed design.

·      Followed by – Appointing an engineering consultant to manage the detailed design process and prepare for construction. 

·      Summer 2023 - Autumn 2024 – Public consultation on the detailed design and propose a planning application. 

·      Autumn 2024 - Early 2025 – Appoint a contractor to build the scheme. 

·      Spring 2025 – Start construction. 

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