A funding shortfall of more than £1million for a long-awaited bid to protect Sidmouth from the sea has been bridged.
Changes in eligibility for government money mean East Devon District Council (EDDC) can now cover the seven-figure sum needed for its plan to safeguard the town’s seafront.
The extra funding is still subject to Defra approval.
EDDC says the development means the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan (BMP) will now ‘most likely’ be fully-funded.
The preferred option of the plan would see a new rock groyne placed on East Beach, shingle imported, and the height of the seafront splash wall increased.
It is estimated the project will cost £8.7million.
Driving forces say the proposed scheme has more than £137million of ‘economic benefits’, will protect 120 homes from coastal flooding, and a further five properties from cliff erosion.
The bid had faced a cash shortfall of £1million.
But an EDDC spokeswoman said today (Thursday) that changes to funding eligibility for flood and coastal risk projects from Defra allow the Sidmouth project ‘to proceed to the next stage’.
She added: “The eligibility changes for central government grant money has increased enough to sufficiently cover the BMP’s current funding gap of more than £1million.
“The additional funding, which the council emphasises is still subject to final Defra approval, will allow the project to proceed to the next stages, which involve the creation of a full business case, detailed design, and eventually construction.
“The project team then has to obtain planning permission to ensure the construction of the BMP.”
EDDC says it will host a public exhibition ‘when circumstances allow’ to gather feedback on details of its proposals before it submits a formal planning application.
Councillor Geoff Jung, chairman of EDDC’s Sidmouth and East Beach Steering Group and environment portfolio holder on the authority, said: “Now the Sidmouth BMP is most likely to be fully funded, the East Devon team can concentrate on finalising the details of the project, such as accommodating an attractive new splash defence along The Esplanade, improved slipway access and a recharged beach, which are all part of the preferred option, which is estimated to cost £8.7million.
“It is planned that, as soon as is possible, an exhibition and a chance to ‘meet the team’ session will be held in Sidmouth – subject to coronavirus emergency measures – providing local people the opportunity to see and understand the final designs.
“The project team will also have to apply for planning permission which will be subject to further period of public consultation, and agreement from strategy consultees which will include the town council, Natural England and Historic England.
“Final assurance checks by the Environment Agency must also be passed to confirm the eligibility of the central government grant.”
Sidmouth councillors Cathy Gardner, Denise Bickley, John Loudoun, Stuart Hughes, Dawn Manley and Marianne Rixson said in a joint statement: “We are delighted that this extra funding is available. The long-awaited beach management plan can now move on to the next stage.”
More information on the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Scheme can be found here.