“What it doesn’t address is the present problem.”
Back in December, members of the BMP steering group attended a conference in Plymouth put on by the Devon Maritime Forum:
Managing our Coast in a Changing Climate – from the SW Coastal Change Conference – Vision Group for Sidmouth
There was plenty of evidence presented on how to manage our changing coasts – and It is clear that any Beach Management Plan should be evidence-based.
However, this has not seem to have happened in Sidmouth, as shown in the official report on the last meeting of the BMP steering group – back in August last year – where the ‘two abstentions’ showed real concern about “the decision to accept the advice of the experts on the most appropriate scheme, balancing financial viability, technical performance and environmental impact”:
Beach Management Plan meeting: August press release – Vision Group for Sidmouth
Moreover, whilst at the Plymouth conference there was plenty of open and frank discussion of options, the Sidmouth BMP has been undermined from the start by concerns about poor procedure and critical issues around governance.
Indeed, the actual minutes of any of the BMP’s steering group have never been published – even though, to quote a correspondent, they “were deemed not to be minutes but notes that were advised should not be regarded as transcripts or accurate records of the discussion”:
Sidmouth Beach Management Plan meetings – Vision Group for Sidmouth
Futures Forum: Beach Management Plan: “There is widespread scepticism of the process and little regard shown to the local understanding of what the real issues might be.”
The BMP and meetings of its steering group in various disguises have now been going on for the best part of two decades:
Futures Forum: 28th January 2003: “EDDC is proposing a coast protection scheme aimed at reducing the rate of cliff erosion at Pennington Point. The scheme would protect the properties located at the top of Salcombe Hill and the Alma Bridge.”
Rather than taking stock with a fresh start and an open and receptive approach, it seems that this process continues to both plough on with a life of its own and to be permanently on hold.
And so the feeling has always been that we are ‘nearly there’ – and, until recently, there was a huge shortfall in funding – which the local community has very clearly said it will not be stumping up:
Beach Management Plan: the costs of over-engineering – Vision Group for Sidmouth
In December, the Herald reported on some extra monies coming in:
Major step forward for Sidmouth Beach Management Plan | Sidmouth Herald
And in May, the ‘final amount’ was secured:
Sidmouth finally has the £8.7m funding for beach management project | Sidmouth Herald
However, the town’s County Councillor was not overjoyed:
“This is excellent news and has got to be welcomed, but what it doesn’t address is the present problem.”
Sidmouth Beach Management Plan funding: reaction from Stuart Hughes | Sidmouth Herald
BREAKING: Beach Management Plan: funding secured – Vision Group for Sidmouth
And the ‘present problem’ is the erosion at Pennington Point (more of which later):
Beach Management Plan: emergency survey – Vision Group for Sidmouth
Not only does the BMP appear not to be addressing the immediate problem of halting cliff erosion, but the actual official process seems once again to be delayed.
At its meeting in August 2019, “a deadline of August 2020 was agreed by the Steering Group in which to source the outstanding finance, after which time an alternative plan, involving only the town frontage, would be worked up and submitted for funding approval”– but there have been no official announcements to date:.
Press releases about the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan – 30th August 2019 – ‘Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme Steering Group meeting update (August 2019)’ – East Devon
In January, a further meeting of the steering group was planned “for mid-February 2020 to receive updates on the project and funding progress, as well as considering a range of material and technical options for the delivery of the project”:
Press releases about the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan – 7th January 2020 – ‘Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan FAQ web pages updated and project’s next steps outlined’ – East Devon
Back in May, as part of the council’s very lastest press release, the District Council looked forward to progressing to ‘the next stage’ – which we are still awaiting:
14 May 2020 – East Devon’s Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan funding gap of more than £1m now bridged following changes to criteria – East Devon
It seems, therefore, that we are again ‘on hold’.
Meanwhile, we can look at the well-considered alternatives (again, more of which later):
Beach Management Plan. Revetment, part 1 – Vision Group for Sidmouth
Beach Management Plan, Revetment part 2 – Vision Group for Sidmouth
Sidmouth Beach Management Plan: Offshore islands would reduce the need to raise the splash wall – Vision Group for Sidmouth
“This photograph of Pennington Point and East Cliff was taken for the BMP by a drone at lower altitude. If you look carefully you can see circular waves with their centre at the end of the river training wall. This is wave diffraction and it can cause erosion.”