A previous post from Owl headed: “Otter restoration project: stop the swamp, or future proof against climate change?” exposed some of the emotion swirling around this project. There have been over 500 comments from members of the public.
So it is interesting to see how the case, which will be determined by EDDC’s planning committee next Wednesday, is summarised by DevonLive’s democratic reporter.
The Exmouth Journal publishes today rather than on its usual Wednesday but does not cover the story.
Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com
Multi-million pound plans to restore the Otter Estuary to its natural and historic flood plains to avoid a catastrophic failure of sea defences are set to be given the go-ahead next week.
East Devon District Council’s planning committee are being recommended to approve the Lower Otter Restoration Project, which will create 55 hectares of mudflats, saltmarsh and other valuable estuarine habitats.
The project, led by landowner Clinton Devon Estates and the Environment Agency, would see the Big and Little Marsh floodplains around Budleigh Salterton restored, with breaches created in the Little Bank, the Big Bank and the River Otter Embankment to allow water to flow through.
The Lower Otter valley is the subject of plans from the Environment Agency
The funding will support the Lower Otter Restoration Project’s aims of climate change adaptation by working with natural processes to provide benefits for people and wildlife.
It follows the significant risk that a major flood or extreme tidal event could lead to catastrophic failure of embankments, with unpredictable environmental and social impacts, with recent years having seen part of the South West Coast Path that runs along the embankments closed to the public for significant periods due to erosion caused by such events.
As part of the plans to restore the historic floodplain of the River Otter, breaches in existing embankments would be created to allow water from both the River Otter and the Estuary to inundate the site, creating intertidal saltmarsh and mudflats.
In addition, South Farm Road will be realigned and raised at a point just to the south of the existing road, and a small car park created at its western end and a new road bridge will be required, and a new footbridge to the South. Existing footpaths will be realigned and the landfill site capped and planted with grassland and woodland.
The spit to the South will be allowed to evolve naturally, necessitating the removal of the southern part of the loop path known as Donkeys Turn.
The cricket club will be moved from its current location to land off of East Budleigh Road, permission for which has already been granted under a separate planning application. Floods have left part of their current Ottermouth home under water on three occasions in the last 10 years, with a plan to relocate to Janie’s Field on the outskirts of the town having been agreed.
Recommending approval, the report of planning officers says: “This is a significant application within the Lower Otter Valley which will result in a change to the existing landscape, which has been managed over the past two centuries. The proposal would clearly significantly change the area, particularly by way of breaches to the embankments which would irreversibly change the habitat and visual appearance of the estuary.
“The ambition to return the river to a more natural watercourse will result in the inundation of water to the project area and will result in large areas of new habitat creation. In addition, significant rerouting of the existing South Farm Road is required, and there will be a requirement for additional car parking and a new footbridge to provide adequate facilities for those accessing the area by car, on foot or by bike.
Option 3 – Big and Little Marsh Floodplain Restoration (estimated cost £8-9m) for the Lower Otter Restoration project
“The scheme is widely supported by a number of significant conservation bodies which have an interest in the site, this is a result of a number of years of consultation on the project including working groups.
“The Flood Risk Assessment and modelling have fully considered the impact of the scheme on nearby residents and businesses, and have concluded that the risk is minimal.
“Concerns have been raised regarding the positioning and size of the proposed car park which will be addressed by a planning condition, which will also include the requirement for a footpath from the proposed car park and impacts on trees, local landscape, the setting of heritage assets, use of the estuary and contamination have also been addressed.
“It is considered that the proposal is acceptable subject to appropriately worded conditions relating to archaeology, materials of the footbridge, access details and public rights of way, contamination, a construction management plan, groundwater levels, adequate car parking, the provision of a footpath, arboricultural and tree protection details.”
The Environment Agency has submitted plans to East Devon District Council on behalf of LORP as the £15 million project enters its final phase and if approved, work will start in 2021 and be completed by spring 2023.
The River Otter
The Lower Otter project is largely funded by the European Interreg programme through an initiative called Promoting Adaptation to Changing Coasts (PACCo). It is partnered with a similar project in the Saâne Valley in Normandy, France.
Both schemes aim to demonstrate that early adaptation to climate change brings greater benefits than a delayed response or inaction. If successful, the adaptation model for these two projects will be rolled out to other locations in the UK and France.
East Devon District Council’s planning committee meets on Wednesday, January 6, to determine the fate of the application.