‘Super-groyne’ features in changed £19million scheme to protect Sidmouth from the sea

Driving forces behind a bid to safeguard Sidmouth from the sea have agreed an amended £19million scheme featuring a ‘super groyne’ to protect the town’s crumbling cliffs.  

The mooted project now also boasts an extra rock island, a replacement splash wall, larger slipway, new beach ramp and more shingle along the seafront.

An advisory group for Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan (BMP) gave the green light to changes at a meeting on Wednesday, March 8.

The initiative will lead to 113 homes and 70 commercial properties being better-protected from increased flood and erosion risk.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) will have to plug a £1.75million funding gap for the scheme to become a reality.

Work could begin in May 2025 with a finished scheme in place in October 2026.

The extra rock island, 120-metre ‘super-groyne’ and increased beach material will safeguard the the town and reduce cliff erosion, says EDDC.

Fresh changes mean controversial original plans to raise the height of the seafront splash wall can be scrapped in the ‘short- and medium-term’.

Councillor Geoff Jung, chair of the Sidmouth Beach Management Advisory Group, said: “I am really pleased that the group has supported the recommendation to move onto the next stage for this important and critical project.”

What will the altered Sidmouth scheme include?

'Option Six' is the preferred option for Sidmouth seafront. Image: EDDC

‘Option Six’ is the preferred option for Sidmouth seafront. Image: EDDC

The advisory group for the Sidmouth and East Beach BMP has backed the ‘Option Six’ Beach Management Scheme. This includes:

On the main beach: Construction of an offshore breakwater/island similar to the two existing breakwaters, plus a ‘beach recharge’. Existing beach levels will be increased using similar material dredged from offshore.

On The Esplanade and the Ham areas: At the eastern end there will be a replacement splash wall on the landward side of the existing road near the lifeboat station. West of that, the existing splash-way will be replaced with better foundations and the wall rebuilt to approximately the existing height. This will be reviewed in the detailed design.

The far eastern end of the Ham and river training wall: Will have remedial works carried out and an improved, larger slipway, specifically to provide speedier lifeboat launching.

At East Beach: Construction of a 120-metre-long ‘super groyne’ and substantial beach recharge, again using beach material dredged from offshore.

At Chit Rocks: It was also agreed that a proposal for beach ramp will be incorporated into Beach Management Scheme. This ramp will provide easy access for families with young children and wheelchair access to the beach.

EDDC says amendments to the scheme have been made possible by changes in the UK Government funding calculator.

Extra contributions have also been made by town, district, county councils, and other agencies.

However, EDDC says that it will ‘underwrite’ and estimated funding gap of £1.75million ‘to enable the project to progress these important works without delay’.

Cllr Jung added: “For the last four years I have been the councillor overseeing this project and was told at the very beginning it was a challenge. It certainly has been.

“With the funding complexities, Covid lockdowns, escalating material costs and now the dramatic fuel costs rise, we are now finally providing Sidmouth and East Beach the protection they vitally need.

“ ‘Climate change’ and ‘global warming’ was hardly a consideration when the earlier schemes were being considered in the 1990s.

“However, we now understand that the effects of the sea and weather will have serious detrimental consequences on the town of Sidmouth, but this plan is designed to protect properties and residents, to retain its character and unique charm for the next 100 years.”

EDDC says a further rock island parallel to the existing beach will eventually result in more sandy areas area at low tide.

It added that the extra island will ‘eliminate the need’ to heighten the splash wall along the seafront behind the island ‘for the short- to medium-term’.

The project will also reduce the need to recharge and recycle the beach with extra material in the future – cutting costs and the authority’s carbon footprint.

Cllr Jung said: “I would like to personally thank the officers, consultants, and group members for their diligence and hours of hard work to finally move on to the detailed design stage, at which time the number and orientation of the new breakwaters will be optimised for effectiveness and visual impact.”

What happens next?

  • March 2023: EDDC will submit an outline business case to Environment Agency;
  • June 2023: Tender for a consultant for the detailed design phase;
  • September 2023: Appoint consultant;
  • October 2023: August 2024: Begin detailed design stage;
  • August 2024: Tender for contractor;
  • August 2024 – November 2024: Planning process;
  • October 2024: Appoint contractor;
  • May 2025: Construction to commence;
  • October 2026: Construction complete and scheme ready for service.

Sidmouth LiDAR data showing low-lying areas. image: EDDC

Sidmouth LiDAR data showing low-lying areas. image: EDDC

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