Sidmouth beach protections ‘not fit for purpose’, says chamber president

Plans to protect the town’s seafront ‘do not look fit for purpose’ following a report showing Sidmouth’s clifftop homes could be swallowed by the sea within 20 years.

Those are the words of Richard Eley, Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce’s president.

Beth Sharp 

Sidmouth Nub News previously reported on Plymouth University’s study that warned of a ‘worst case scenario’ for Sidmouth’s eroding cliff.

Furthermore, residents have been reminded that the study did not take into account any actions to reduce erosion, like the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan (BMP).

The preferred option for the Sidmouth BMP would see a new groyne installed on East Beach, 200 metres east of the River Sid, and the splash wall raised to up to a metre along the promenade.

The £9million project would also incorporate importing shingle on both East and Sidmouth beach.

Mr Eley has however claimed there were ‘major problems with the preferred option’.

He added: “The chamber has long argued that the groyne is only likely to be partially successful.”

Mr Eley said the recharge/recycle provision was not funded by the scheme, and was going to be very costly.

He added: “Furthermore, it is highly unreliable: East Devon District Council (EDDC) expect to recharge once every ten years, which seems very infrequent.

“There is a good chance that the newly introduced shingle will soon disappear in the next big storm, and the beach will be vulnerable for years before another recharge is undertaken.

“During that time, erosion will continue at the current rate.”

Mr Eley said the groyne would be located 200 metres along East Beach and was designed to protect the residential housing west of that point, between the groyne and Pennington Point.

He added: “EDDC has previously assumed that houses east of the groyne are so far back from the cliffs that they are not under threat.

“The Plymouth study utterly destroys that thinking.

“The groyne, even if it works as well or better than expected, is not going to do anything to help anyone living to the east, in Laskeys Lane or Alma Lane.

“Even worse, the groyne is very likely to produce an effect known as ‘terminal erosion’…

“In this case, it means that the groyne will accelerate erosion to the east thus increasing the threat to Laskeys Lane and Alma Lane residents.

“So the current Preferred Option, developed before the Plymouth study, does not look ‘fit for purpose’, and surely needs to be reviewed in the light of the report.

“The chamber has consistently criticised the Preferred Option, because we think it is inadequate and ill-judged. This was before the Plymouth study ramped up those concerns.”

Mr Eley said they had argued for a rock revetment rather than a groyne.

A revetment has always been preferred by consultants, residents and EDDC, but has been criticised by Natural England.

Mr Eley called for Natural England to be invited to reconsider it in the light of the Plymouth report.

He added a rock revetment was cheaper than a groyne, more effective and reliable at reducing erosion, it did not require much (if any) recharge or recycle.

My Eley said it was also safer and did not cause terminal erosion.

He added: “It is impossible to ignore the impact of the Plymouth study, so a rethink by EDDC is inevitable.

“We will lobby hard for a revetment to be reconsidered, not least because of the negative impact that a groyne will bring to the residents of Laskeys Lane and Alma Lane.

“This is a very important issue for Sidmouth and we are collectively getting into quite a mess. The whole thing needs to be properly reconsidered without preconceptions.

“This doesn’t mean throwing away all the work that has been done, but it does mean responding to changing circumstances and parameters.

“We cannot just ignore this new Plymouth report.”

Read our previous story on the Plymouth study Sidmouth’s crumbling seafront could claim clifftop homes ‘within 20 years’ here.