District council must explain how it allowed new business to be built next to the crumbling seawall at Exmouth

The district council must explain how it allowed new businesses to be built close to the crumbling seawall at Exmouth.

Emergency repairs to Exmouth’s crumbling sea wall are set to begin this month after being delayed because of a change to the design and checking for unexploded bombs, writes local democracy reporter Will Goddard.

But costs have skyrocketed, and part of the project is to be pushed back until autumn.

It has been revealed the district council’s scrutiny committee will investigate how East Devon District Council (EDDC) allowed new developments next to the failing sea wall.

Cracks appeared in the structure in front of the Sideshore watersports and retail development last August.

A subsequent storm weakened the wall further and put it at risk of collapse, but temporary repairs of concrete blocks and sand have since held it together.

This section, which is believed to be around 100 years old, does not have foundations. This, together with low beach levels, has allowed waves to wash out sand from underneath.

East Devon District Council had wanted to start installing a 255-metre barrier of steel sheet piles at the wall in January for £1.1 million. Cladding the steel piles later was projected to come to just over £2 million.

But now the work will be split into two smaller phases, and costs have soared because of poor ground conditions.

The first phase will begin in the next two weeks and replace 90 metres of failed wall near Sideshore. It should be complete by the end of May and will cost £1.5 million. Work will not take place over the four-day Easter bank holiday weekend.

The second phase will tackle 115 metres of ‘at-risk but still-intact’ wall towards Coastwatch House, minus the slipway. Work on this section has been pushed back to September at the earliest and will come to an estimated £1.8 million.

Exmouth

Pictured here is the damage and temporary repairs to Exmouth sea wall.
Photo: EDDC.

Exmouth

The photo shows one of the cracks in the seawall.
Photo: EDDC.

Cladding the steel piles should cost just shy of £1 million, bringing the total amount up to £4.3 million.

EDDC hopes it will be able to get a grant of £1.1 million from the Environment Agency to help.

Exmouth

The sea wall damage.
Photo: EDDC.

Cllr Geoff Jung (Lib Dem, Woodbury and Lympstone) said: “There is no choice, we have to do it.

“We want it to be just as good as before, if not better aesthetically, and provide protection from increased risk from climate change.

“We will endeavour to find funding from elsewhere, but we need to be prepared to dip into our reserves on this one, and probably put back some other projects that are less urgent.”

Delays to the project are down to having to change the design because of poor-quality ground, figuring out how to work around businesses and a risk of unexploded bombs in the area requiring more surveys.

The second phase has been deferred amid concerns piling could damage businesses along the wall towards Coastwatch House.

sea wall

The map shows the areas where Exmouth sea wall is at risk.
Image: EDDC.

There are suggestions one or two of the buildings could be moved next to the western-most building to make the repairs simpler and cheaper. But this would be “extremely risky” for the council to undertake without following proper planning procedure, which would need more time.

The steel sheet piles will initially be installed without cladding. They will last for around 100 years once clad.

The 90 metres of wall in the first phase will be replaced with a vertical wall, while the second phase could keep its current sloped revetments.

Councillors also agreed for EDDC’s scrutiny committee to look into how the authority allowed businesses and infrastructure at Sideshore to be built next to the part of the sea wall that has failed.

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