In November 2020 Robert Crick, who had been our representative on this Beach Management Plan Steering Group since the untimely death of Jo Frith, resigned his position. We did not have anyone with his breadth of experience to replace him and therefore it was decided it would become a shared role. This was acceptable to Cllr Geoff Jung who leads the Group and so Jeremy Woodward and Mary Walden-Till were put in post, one or the other will attend meetings and they will work closely behind the scenes to make sure that the opinions of VGS members are heard.
Please get in touch if you have comments to make as we want to be representatives in the truest sense of the word now that EDDC will permit the plans to be discussed publicly. You can reach us through the Contact page
Steering Group meeting 3rd Dec 2020
As this was our first meeting both of us were allowed to attend so we could get up to speed.
Going through the agenda items in the order they occurred :-
Notes of last meeting. Obviously we have no way of knowing if the notes on the last meeting were accurate but the fact that formal Minutes were never taken has been a complaint for years. Thankfully, this meeting was Minuted and will every future one will be too. Arising from discussions at the previous meeting a vote was taken on whether representative should be free to discuss with the members of their group anything which happens at the meeting and that all meetings should in future be open to the public. It was agreed without hesitation that this should be the way forward.
There were several agenda items where we discussed the very basic foundations of what the Beach Management Plan is supposed to achieve. It has been considered that the original Aims and Objectives needed minor reassessment to reflect where we are now, many years after they were first drawn up. A group had looked at this and brought forward some changes which did indeed make them better but it was felt that further tweaking might allow them to be absolutely clear to anyone who looked at them. This translation into plain English is now underway and it is hoped will be accepted at the next meeting. This document included an updated explanation of what the Steering group was supposed to do and the responsibilities which were the attached to various people and groups further up the hierarchy. (We look forward to being able to share the updated documents on the VGS website soon.)
We were then on the 5th agenda item which was about how the new report on erosion, from Plymouth University, fits with the many years of work done on the Shoreline Management Plan which was now on its second version SMP2. The Plymouth study is for what is called a Coastal Change Management Area, CCMA, and is a pilot project which is likely to be rolled out nationally at some stage.
The SMP2 looks at the changes due to erosion in the area from as far back as we have any records, and then projects that information forward. The CCMA doesn’t look back as far, instead it looks at the more detailed data available from much more recently. It seems that the new data for the CCMA is not supposed to replace the SMP but instead to give further detail to be used alongside it. Because the CCMA is assessing things at a time the SMP thinks erosion is happening more quickly than usual it is possible that the CCMA predictions are too extreme. The ‘reasonable worst case scenarios’ are considerably different in the two documents so that fact, and the clumsy phrase ‘reasonable worst case scenario’ are causing anxiety.
The phrase was explained as looking at the worst case of erosion which might occur and then trying to find the middle of that worst case band, which they then think is ‘reasonable’, on that estimate they then add a 10 metre buffer in case they are underestimating, and the final result is what they work to. (We are not sure how this differs from taking the absolute worst they think might happen and using that! ) All estimates seem to have the 10 metre buffer applied to them.
You can see the report presented to the EDDC here, starting at page 47.
It is likely that the real level of erosion will lie somewhere between the SMP2 and CCMA predictions. Both of these are trying to estimate erosion forward for 100 years, given the uncertainty about sea level rises, and how that rise is likely to change wave characteristics, such estimations are very difficult.
The new CCMA is, as stated, just a pilot project at this stage. It can not be used when applying for Government funding and so it is of little practical use in that way, if it came into use before the BMP received funding it might make a small difference to the calculations but it is unlikely to come in to force.
The 6th item was looking at what is hoped will happen in the coming months.
1) It was hoped that the updated Outline Business Case, which is what we need to submit to the Government in order to get funding, would have been ready by this meeting but it was not. It is now hoped it can be presented at the next meeting.
2) In order not to waste any time with getting protection for Salcombe cliffs all the paperwork will be made ready based on the plan for a groyne on East Beach, and the controversial ‘splash wall’ on the Esplanade ( even though we may vary the plan) and it is hoped that all the background assumptions will have been checked by the relevant Government departments by February.
3) This would allow a company to be appointed to Project Manage any plan by April, and one to build it put in place over summer.
4) It would then be possible to submit plans for Planning Permission over next winter with a view to starting work in 2022.
Once we know, more or less accurately, how much money we will be able to get for the scheme then we can consider what we will be able to spend on improving the details of the plan in order to make it more acceptable to the town and the planners. It is acknowledged that the Esplanade is a very sensitive area because of its Conservation Area status, its Listed Buildings, and economic importance to the town.
The next items were about possible different ways of dealing with future wave overtopping on the Esplanade possibly causing flooding of the town, while still working within the scope of the Beach Management Plan. More information here.
Agenda Item 8 was about the possibility of incorporating a self raising splash wall where the dwarf wall is. The firm being considered is 3M FloodTech although other companies do similar things.
Agenda Item 9 discussed
i) the installation of a recurved wall, but it was thought that this could mean the height of the Esplanade walking area had to be raised by a metre from its current level :- Suggestion came from Cllr Stuart Hughes.
ii) using Sandsaver technology, which is relatively new and has not been used in the UK before so needs further investigation. It is designed to rebuild an eroded beach :- Suggestion came from VGS.
iii) the use of a submerged Geotextile tube to act like a reef and break the force of the waves before they reached the beach. This also helps rebuild or retain a beach so may do away with the need for periodic beach recharging. It is considered a possibility well worth pursuing as it is cheap and will not show above the surface of the sea even at low tides. It would need careful consideration so it was not a navigational risk to boats :- Suggestion came from VGS.
iv) building improved drains and a pumping station to remove water which managed to overtop the dwarf wall. This had been costed and was so expensive that we would not be able to afford both it and protection on East Beach, so was not considered worth persisting with :- Suggestion came from Cllr Chris Lockyear
v) creating a further small rock island. This was a proposal from Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce who had discovered that islands were not as expensive as thought. Their work lead to the the original company’s figures being questioned and it was discovered that there had been an error made when calculating the cost. The original company has since reduced its estimated cost in the light of its previous error.
There is a Government fund for innovation through which we might be able to trial the rising wall, the Sandsaver and the Geotextile tube at Sidmouth and/or Exmouth. The funding is in the process of being applied for and if we were to get it it could well lead to an improved plan for Sidmouth.
This section closed with us being informed of various ways the administration of the project could be carried forward and the pros and cons of each process.
The meeting ended with Any Other Business which included
i) the recreating of a Project Board to be above the Steering Group and to be responsible for decision making. There used to be one but it has fallen into disuse. Proposals to be brought to the next Steering Group meeting.
ii) provisionally setting the date of the next meeting as the morning of February 9th 2021, with postponing a possibility if the Business Case or financial details are not ready by then.
This is the EDDC Press release on the same meeting ….. it seems to be taking a slightly different slant.