Concerns new floodplain will be ‘magnet’ for paddleboarders

Concerns have been raised that the floodplain created by the Lower Otter Restoration Project will become a ‘magnet’ for paddleboards and canoes, and that these will disturb wildlife.

Philippa Davies, Exmouth Journal:

The Otter Valley Association supports the project but thinks more should be done to make sure birds and other wildlife are protected when the scheme is finished next year.

The project will allow the lower valley to become tidal twice a day, recreating an estuary like the one that existed there 200 years ago. It will comprise approximately 55 hectares of mudflat and saltmarsh, providing a new wildlife reserve of international conservation value.

The Otter Valley Association thinks, in view of this, byelaws should be drawn up to prevent boat users accessing the estuary from the sea, which they currently have a right to do.

Chair, Bob Wiltshire, said: “During the summer months it is possible to hire paddle boards and kayaks at the end of the beach. “Although the people hiring these craft are advised not to launch into the river from the back of the beach, some do so. “We are particularly concerned that when this project is completed, it will act as a magnet. “I have written to EDDC (East Devon District Council) to ask if byelaws can be written to prohibit this taking place.

“Everybody I have spoken to has expressed their concern and wants it to be well known in the public domain.”

However, Clinton Devon Estates, which is managing the project, is hoping byelaws will not be necessary.

Head of wildlife and conservation, Dr Sam Bridgewater, said there had been discussions with EDDC on the issue, and byelaws are not being ruled out.

But he would prefer to take a less authoritarian approach, allowing people to enjoy the estuary while steering them away from sensitive wildlife habitats. He said visitor access could be managed through the design of pathways, the use of natural barriers such as hedgerows, and through signage.

There are also plans to have a ranger on site to keep an eye on visitors and wildlife.

The Otter Valley Restoration Project is due for completion in the spring of 2023.