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Beach Management Plan


Sidmothians have been concerned with keeping sea and river out of the town for many centuries but it is a never ending task. If climate change leads to higher sea levels and increased storms then our current defences will not hold. These current defences have already proved to have unintended consequences as the increased erosion of the east beach and the cliffs is arguably the result of the rock islands built at the end of the 20th century.

You can find up to date information by using the search icon in the navigation bar of every page..

BMP Advisory Group, formerly known as ‘Steering Group’

Here is a list of the reports of the Advisory Group, of which the VGS is a member, together with a definition of its role:

Beach Management Plan > Steering Group meetings

Or look at the other pages in Subjects Library > Natural Environment > Beach Management Plan


From Shoreline Management Plan to Beach Management Plan

This century’s consideration of improved protection has been going on since at least 2003 and has been very slow, complicated, and punctuated by unpredictable changes of direction.You can see here a list of reports that were produced before 2010

In 2011, following on from work to put together a Shoreline Management Plan for the Jurassic Coast (Shoreline Management Plan – East Devon), plans were set in motion to create a Beach Management Plan specifically for Sidmouth: Sidmouth beach plan could protect bridge – Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News – Sidmouth Herald

The District Council took charge – and their website on the project can be found here: Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan – East Devon And things started moving in 2013: Futures Forum- Beach Management Plan for Sidmouth.  This blog entry from the Sidmouth Town website also seems to be from 2013.

By 2016 the plans were far enough advanced to be made public and Sidmouth was allowed to have its say. The choices were presented on a set of boards which you can see by clicking here, and were supported by an appraisal document (both these documents appear to open blank, but please scroll down in them) and forward planning timetable. The final report was submitted to East Devon District Council by the contractors CH2M in January 2017.

Unfortunately, in having their say the residents unknowingly chose the option which engineers also said would be the preferred technical option. So why was this unfortunate? The answer is that …. it was the one East Devon District Council did not want as it was the most expensive solution.

The EDDC documents can be accessed here

This led to many heated exchanges, strange reactions such as installing an expensive ‘charity box’ on the Esplanade to solicit donations from town and visitors towards the cost of any plan, and ultimately the decision to pursue the cheapest option.

In April 2018 there was an exhibition at Kennaway House to inform us of the current thinking. While the details had not been finalised it was a very strong indication of what was intended to be put in place. The boards from this display can be seen here.


Splash Wall

The most contentious issue was the sudden inclusion of a heightened splash wall dividing the Esplanade walk from the road. This option appeared out of the blue and had not been discussed with local representatives on the Beach Management Plan Steering Group.

A document containing images of the original proposed wall height overlaid on photographs is available here.

It is proposed that this wall be increased to a height of 1 metre (39 inches) measured from the walk, and the flood gates will obviously be enlarged as well. The road edge is at a lower level than the walk and so the wall would be higher than 1 metre when seen from the town side. It would be of a height just slightly less than the height of the railings on the seaward side of the walk.

A document giving comparisons of now, original proposed height, additional height proposed, and what the new height would look like is here.

It is the opinion of the VGS that this would be very intrusive, harm tourism, and be detrimental to the setting of many listed buildings on the Esplanade.


Where we are now

The project has, unfortunately, been wracked with controversy, with the Chamber of Commerce and District Councillors refusing to take part in the Steering Group for some time until the make up of EDDC changed in 2019. Things have been better since then and the name of the ‘Steering Group’ has been changed to reflect what it actually is; an ‘Advisory Group.

The group provides advice to EDDC and their Officers but is not responsible for any decisions. Decisions are taken by EDDC, although they rely on work done by Officers and the information provided to them by a ‘Project Board’ which will sit above Officers but below Cabinet, when it is convened. The make-up of this board has not been formalised as of 13th August 2021.

The Vision Group was represented initially by Jo Frith Futures Forum- Jo Frith- a ‘tour de force’ in the Sidmouth community , then by Robert Crick, and now in shared responsibility by Jeremy Woodward and Mary Walden-Till.

See the Futures Forum blog for details of former years work on the project: Futures Forum- beach management plan


The Vision Group’s news pages also have information on the recent history the project:

Beach Management Plan consultation ends {May 2018]

Beach Management Plan: no news [Feb 2019]

The Beach Management Plan to go ahead? [April 2019]

Beach Management Plan, SWW decline to help [May 2019]


As of summer 2019. there was hope that things were moving forward, with the latest postings on the VGS news pages:

Beach Management Plan > Exhibition [July 2019]

Beach Management Plan > compare West Bay Dorset [August 2019]


However, despite the new leadership, the meeting in August 2019 proved disappointing, as covered in the VGS news pages:

Sidmouth Beach Management Plan meeting, August agenda

Beach Management Plan meeting: August press release


Here are the issues as recently covered:

August 2019:

Beach Management Plan: safety first

Sidmouth Beach Management Plan: Offshore islands would reduce the need to raise the splash wall

Beach Management Plan. Revetment, part 1

Beach Management Plan, Revetment part 2

September 2019:

Raising the splash wall on Sidmouth’s Esplanade: website info

Raising the splash wall on Sidmouth’s Esplanade

Beach Management Plan: the costs of over-engineering

January 2020:

EDDC FAQs extended and updated

A splash barrier could be an ‘enhancement’

Funding, latest news

March 2020:

Beach Management Plan: splash barrier and sea level rises

Beach Management Plan: emergency revetment

Beach Management Plan: emergency survey

Beach Management Plan: splash barrier damaged

May 2020:

BREAKING: Beach Management Plan: funding secured