Skip to content

Beach Management Plan: the design and construction stages

  • by JW

“The firms are AtkinsRéalis and Keir: if EDDC likes the proposals then it should be full steam ahead.”

“Atkins and Keir were both very keen to have further discussions about creating a seaweed farm off East Beach.” [VGS report]


The Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan and Scheme has been going on for years – but seems to be reaching its final stages.

MARCH 2023

The BMP Project Advisory Group meets up to consider how the plan is going – and the last time they gathered was March last year, when it considered and agreed to the Draft Outline Business Case to be taken forward to the next stage. 

As the VGS report said of the 8th March BMP Advisory Group meeting:

This meeting was in large part to vote as to whether the Outline Business Case (OBC) was more or less what we had agreed to, obviously this was a challenge to the people who had not been present when things were decided previously. For those of us who had been there it was clear that, barring typographical and other minor errors, this document did indeed reflect what we had expected and so it was passed unanimously. This does not mean that we now have a firm plan. It just means that the OBC will be good enough, after tidying up, to go to the Project Board who will then pass it to the Environment Agency (EA) for scrutiny. If they find the case sound they will then give us the money for us to be able to do final design work and get it built.

And as Cllr John Loudoun said at the time: ‘now we can move forward’:

Many possible options for how to protect the town and East Beach have been considered, evaluated, rejected, re-considered and costed. It was never going to be easy to find an agreed approach to what are expensive and complex civil engineering designs. But now we have got there, thanks to the commitment amongst all of those who have participated in the district council-led Sidmouth Beach Management Plan Advisory Group to find a workable set of solutions.The group met again last week and supported the latest options for protecting the town and cliffs. Most of the funding of this almost £20 million project will be provided through the Environment Agency, but significantly the district council’s Cabinet recently agreed to fund the project’s nearly £2 million shortfall.

Now detailed design can take place for the construction of an offshore breakwater, a splash wall to the eastern end of the sea front, futureproofing of foundations for a section of the splash wall to the west, remedial works to the River Sid training wall and improvement to the slipway, plus construction of a groyne to protect East Beach and its cliffs. That’s a big project!


It wasn’t until the end of last year that the full funding was announced for the BMP’s Outline Business Case. This is the draft plan of the OBC, as approved by the Environment Agency – which will allow the plan to go on to the next stage:

As covered by the BBC, the £20m coastal defence scheme has now been formally approved and the budget promised, allowing further work to be carried out on the design of the scheme, followed by public consultation and submitting the plans for approval.


The Sidmouth and East Beach BMP Project Advisory Group met on Tuesday, 23rd January – to receive a project update and to meet the consultants and engineers assigned to take the plans to the next stage. The meeting was recorded and can be followed again online.

In the first meeting of the Advisory Group for ten months, “everyone was keen to find out what had been going on” – as recounted in the VGS report of the 23rd January BMP Advisory Group meeting. Here are the opening paragraphs:

The gap in meetings was explained away by the fact that there was little to tell as the Outline Business Case (OBC) travelled backwards and forwards between EDDC and the Environment Agency (EA) as various aspects were questioned, answered, debated, chewed over, rephrased, until a document fit for purpose was achieved. There was nothing the Advisory Group could do to help with this process. We were promised that the OBC would be published on the EDDC website by the end of the week so that the public could read it if they were interested. However, although there is a huge amount of information on the website about Sidmouth’s Beach Management Plan and Scheme it still isn’t there on Feb 2nd. In fact most of the information in this section of the website says that it is out of date! …

Having dealt with the issues since the last meeting we went on to consider current and future works. As we really need to get a move on EDDC were keen to avoid having the delay of asking for tenders for both further design and construction separately. Instead they have taken advantage of an EA scheme which offers Local Authorities the chance to contract with pre-approved firms. The Advisory Group is in full agreement with this approach if it gets the job done. EDDC have therefore asked a partnership of two firms to put together a proposal for getting through the next stages including construction. The firms are AtkinsRéalis and Keir: if EDDC likes the proposals then it should be full steam ahead.

The final section of the report covers a presentation made by Ebb Tides:

We then met Ebb Tides, the local firm who harvest seaweed, and heard about their aspirations to expand by creating a seaweed farm off East Beach, close to the river mouth area, but quite a way out to sea. This farm would include a biodegradable reef to farm bivalves and help create an area suitable for seagrass. They are hoping that if they can combine with the BMP work that the farm will find it easier to raise funding as the seaweed and reef combination they propose has been shown to reduce wave activity by 40%. I asked for clarity about what they mean by wave activity, is it wave height or wave strength or … Unfortunately I was not able to understand the answer so I think I need to do some research! (Links to research at the end of this report). Atkins and Keir were both very keen to have further discussions about this as they have already begun exploring the use of such interventions.

There is growing interest and activity about Sidmouth and Lyme Bay looking at a seaweed/kelp farm – and indeed whether seaweed could become a major part of the economy of the South West. A posting on these pages looked at a very dynamic venture in the States, which might indeed offer a future for kelp farming.

Watch this space!

To finish, the archive on the VGS pages shows the progress of the BMP Advisory Group over the last four years.