‘Bigger and better’ sea defences for Sidmouth are back on the table – with offshore rock islands being considered once again.
Changes to funding rules mean an ‘unpopular’ scheme currently proposed to protect the town from storms and cliff erosion has been given a cash boost.
Now East Devon District Council (EDDC) chiefs are set to decide on whether to stick with the option already in the pipeline or to explore a costlier version.
Alterations to the plans would mean construction work on any scheme could take around four years to start.
The current preferred option for Sidmouth is to spend £9million on a new rock groyne on East Beach and raising the height of the seafront splash wall.
Modifications to the River Sid training wall and shingle replenishment and recycling would also be carried out.
If given the green light, work on this scheme could start within two years.
The Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan Project Advisory Group heard on Thursday (February 24) that extra money has been made available due to changes in eligibility for funding from various bodies.
The group voted overwhelmingly in favour of pausing the current working draft defence scheme to look again at alternatives previously felt to be unaffordable.
An urgent report is now set to go before the East Devon District Council’s cabinet.
Members will be asked whether they want to investigate options previously dismissed because of insufficient funding.
EDDC says this includes, but is not limited to, offshore rock islands.
If councillors decide to go back to the drawing board, it will take up to six months for engineers and specialist consultants to review and assess various alternatives.
Work on a more expensive option could take around four years to begin.
A recommendation has also been made to EDDC’s cabinet that, should the longer-term project be chosen, a temporary structure should placed at the base of cliffs at Pennington Point.
This would help protect the River Sid wall, low-lying homes in the town and properties on Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs.
Councillor Geoff Jung, EDDC portfolio holder for coast, country and environment, said: “The scheme that was originally underfunded and unpopular has now been provided with extra funding.
“This will enable an improved design that may overcome the more controversial elements of scheme.
“Although the beach and the cliffs are protected as a ‘World Heritage’ site of the Jurassic Coast, it is hoped temporary time limited permission will be able to satisfy the regulations and conditions of the designated site, so are able to progress work not otherwise possible with a permanent scheme.
“Once the final scheme is finally approved, the stone used in the temporary revetment could then be used elsewhere within the scheme.”