Sidmouth is awarded almost £2million council cash to shore up its coastal defences

Further coast defence work has been agreed for Sidmouth after securing council cash, it was announced this week.

Sidmouth’s coastal defences have been given a boost after almost £2 million was made available to protect the town from eroding cliffs and high tides, writes local democracy reporter Rob Kershaw.

In 2020, glass ‘splash walls’ were installed on the seafront to see how they would fare against the waves, however they were soon vandalised.

Now East Devon District Council (EDDC) has chosen a new scheme that involves installing a 120-metre rock groyne on the beach.

The cost of improving Sidmouth’s resilience against the elements has increased since plans were first brought forward – due to staff shortages and higher staff wages. And inflation has driven up prices for materials.

Work on sea defences is set to start in just over two years.

The council needs to spend £1.7 million to continue maintenance work on sea defences, but it is trying to find ways, in collaboration with the Environment Agency, to bring that figure down further with funds from central government.

At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday [1 February], Councillors agreed to its part of the cost.

Cllr Geoff Jung (Independent East Devon Alliance, Woodbury and Lympstone) said: “Thank goodness everyone in Sidmouth at the moment seems to be supporting this scheme.

“And I hope that, in the next four years, we’ll be able to see the design come through, we’ll be having large consultations on it, and then we’ll see the building of it.

“And then we’ll be protecting Sidmouth for many years to come.”

Cllr John Loudoun (Independent East Devon Alliance, Sidmouth Rural) believes that the cash injection will show residents that the council is committed to protecting the town.

“We have been through a large number of ups and downs,” he said. “I hope the fact that we are committing to putting just under £2 million into this will give reassurance to residents that we are serious about supporting this, taking this forward and making sure that it comes to fruition.”

Cllr Paul Hayward (Independent East Devon Alliance, Yarty) reasoned that spending money on sea defences now is better than paying a much larger price further down the line.

“You’ve only got to look at the picture that’s currently being provided here to see the erosion over a period of time,” explained Cllr Haward. “So that’s nigh-on 70 years. That’s an astonishing amount of erosion.

“In real terms, we owe as much to the residents of Sidmouth as we do to Axminster and Honiton and elsewhere to protect them from the elements. And this ultimately seems a pragmatic, appropriate spend to safeguard this issue. Because it’s not just residents who live near the cliff, it’s the fact that a flood event in Sidmouth would decimate business, as it would decimate any seaside town.

“And that could be billions. It could be hundreds of millions in lost businesses, lost revenue, lost jobs. So actually, to deal with it now, and to progress is very sensible.”

 

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