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
Please note that the name has been changed to Advisory Group. This is because the group has only ever been able to give advice not make decisions, so the previous name was misleading.
Advisory Group meeting 30th June 2022, zoom
As the whole meeting was recorded and will be online at the EDDC YouTube Channel I will confine myself to brief notes hitting the highlights.
Costs have risen, especially fuel costs for machines to do the work because they are no longer legally able to use ‘red diesel’ as they have in the past. These cost increases mean that the carefully calculated Hybrid Option which was the result of the pause in the project is now too expensive.
This leaves us back where we had been for many years until the Government changed the funding mechanism. Which gave us more money and allowed us to revisit the deeply disliked ‘Preferred Option’ plan ( see earlier reports and documents on this site).
The situation is incredibly frustrating. However, East Devon District Council has come to the tentative conclusion that the scheme can not be put off any longer; and so has agreed to put before Cabinet a proposal for them to ‘sort of underwrite’ the scheme. Of course it is more complex than that but if Cabinet agrees, and then in turn the whole Council ratifies this decision, the work will be able to go ahead. In anticipation of the Council reaching this agreement, the Outline Business Case (which should have been submitted to the Environment Agency in January 2022 but had to be recalculated because of rising costs) is intended to be submitted at the end of August. If this Case is accepted as sound then things can progress further.
In a nutshell, we need the EA and EDDC to ratify, formally, things which look like being acceptable, informally. These decisions will not be known until late autumn 2022.
The revised timescale is given as part of Tom Buxton-Smith’s (Engineering Project Manager) presentation. (Don’t get confused by the first few pages being blank! It really is there.)
There were some surprising statements made during the meeting. For example when a big Risk Assessment was conducted in January, with contractors and EDDC members actually looking at where work would be carried out on East Beach, it was ‘discovered’ that it would be more costly than initially calculated. Because the quotes for work hadn’t factored in protecting plant and personnel from cliff falls!
As much of the Natural England and Jurassic Coast Trust documentation stresses how we have to allow cliff falls because that is how a natural coastline works I found this strange. The explanation was that risks are not necessarily apparent from photographs and maps.
I had questions about the ‘joint statement’ circulated with the agenda. This is in three separate sections, one from EDDC, one from Natural England and one from the Jurassic Coast Trust on behalf of the World Heritage Site. I found this an unfortunate layout because the NE and JCT documents contained inconsistencies, and in places contradicted each other and even themselves. See my annotated version here. They are both interesting documents but I can not accept them as definitive. Richard Eley agreed with me. In addition I found the language used very difficult in places; and suggested these issues should be resolved before it was put on the EDDC website.
Tony Burch found other issues of concern in the documents. He was concerned that risk factors had been identified ( risk in this case referring to the risk of costs being greater than calculated due to unexpected circumstances) but not considered in sufficient detail to allow proper assessment. In particular some of the language used by NE and JCT needed clarification. John Golding for EDDC said he was also concerned about some of the language, which could be seen as setting demands, or targets which had to be reached. If they are requirements then the project will fail as we can’t afford them.
Concern was expressed that such things could be setting the scene for an objection when the scheme reaches the Planning Application stage. It was accepted that we need to ask for clarification from both NE and JCT.
Tony also felt that we needed to establish what NE and JCT meant by ‘slowing erosion’. Was it referring to slowing it in relation to the current high level or to the historically slower amount? The answer to this was key to avoiding accusations of ‘slowing erosion too much’ with a scheme.
Cllr Chris Lockyear (STC Chair) mentioned that he didn’t understand the ‘traffic light’ imagery used on page 30 of the Joint Statement, the terminology didn’t seem clear or to mesh with what had previously been said. Clarification of this will be sought too.
Other comments of note were that:
Cllr Geoff Jung (Chair) said that Pennington Point had now been clearly identified as a major protection for Sidmouth and so it would need to be maintained in more or less its current position. ( 1 hour: 12: 40 into the recording at the link at the top of this report)
Cllr Cathy Gardner (an EDDC Sidmouth representative) asked that any proposed press releases be circulated to the Advisory Group for comment before release as it was now critically important that information was presented as clearly as possible.
I asked if the long promised Project Board had been set up yet? Tom Buxton-Smith (EDDC Engineering Project Manager) said there had been an informal one to participate in the on-site risk assessment mentioned but it was not formalised yet. It would be in place by the next meeting!!!!!
Advisory Group meeting 25th October 2021, Zoom
As with all the other Advisory Group meetings this meeting was recorded. It was also live streamed on the Council’s YouTube Channel
The purpose of the meeting was to assess the results achieved during the 6 months when the scheme had been paused for reassessment. The outcome of this pause was that three options had been identified
- Continue with the Preferred Option, whose process had been paused.
- Take forward an Alternative Option, which used some arrangement of islands in front of Town Beach to do away with the necessity for a large splash wall all along the Esplanade.
- Refuse both these options and start again from scratch.
It is fairly obvious that no-one wanted to push protection for East Cliffs and the houses on Cliff Road further into the future. This has been a long process already and it really can not afford any more delays. Option 3 was immediately ruled out.
It was also fairly quick work to decide that we didn’t want the Preferred Option that we had been threatened with for years; the residents of Sidmouth had made it quite clear that they would fight any proposals for a large splash wall.
This left us with the Alternative Option.
At the moment it is only in embryonic form and it was explained to us that this was a good situation to be in for getting a well thought out final solution. The current form should be sufficient to allow EDDC to put together an Outline Business Case for submission to the Environment Agency. If the EA agrees that this case is sound then they will release the money East Devon qualifies for. EDDC will then have the money needed to move to the Detailed Design stage; where this current concept can be worked up into a final form. The Detailed Design stage will include tank modelling, where a scale model of Sidmouth’s shore will be built and various options tested to get the best result with the money we have available.
The Advisory Group agreed that the best way forward was to proceed to the OBC using the Alternative Option as a basis. We were assured that the AG would be involved as the Detailed Design stage was carried out. This assurance calmed our fears that what we were being shown as a concept would actually be what was built. The current form shows 2 islands off Town Beach and the large groyne on East Beach, as in the Preferred Option. It is hoped that in the Detailed Design stage we can rapidly discover whether a groyne of that size is needed or whether some other affordable arrangement is better. Similarly it will tell us what size and arrangement of islands, or a single island, will work best for Town Beach. The thorny problem of whether we need a splash wall of varying heights at varying places will also be addressed. There is a possibility that a higher splash wall at Port Royal can be integrated into improvements to the turning circle, and moved back from its current position to somewhere more useful, thus making best use of the space.
We would regretfully wish to disassociate ourselves from EDDC press releases which are still managing to give an incomplete, and sometimes misleading, account of the facts.
To see the reports of the process during the 6 months of Pause, visit our Pause Subgroup page.
.Advisory Group meeting 15th July 2021, Zoom
This meeting was only a briefing meeting as current Government rules do not allow decisions to be made in remote meetings.
As of 13th August 2021 the recording of this meeting is not yet available on the EDDC YouTube Channel
There were written statement read out from Sam Scriven of the Jurassic Coast Trust and from Ed Harrison of the Sid Vale Association who could not be at the meeting, but we do not have the statements themselves. However, Mr Scriven wrote a later email complaining about what he saw as lack of concern for the Environment, he stated that both the Advisory Group members and EDDC used language and tone during the meeting which caused him to lose trust. A similar email was received from Natural England, and it would appear that Mr Scriven had enlisted them in support of his approach. It is the VGS position that the remarks were taken out of context and that issues of the environment are properly addressed. The VGS is a strong supporter of the environment and sustainability.
Advisory Group meeting 25th Feb 2021, Zoom
The Steering Group has now been renamed to the Advisory Group to better reflect what it actually does.
You can find the report of this meeting here, and can listen to the meeting itself on the EDDC YouTube Chanel
It has been agreed to set up a temporary subgroup to be involved in the Pause Study ( agreed in this report above), you can find their reports here
Steering Group meeting 3rd Dec 2020, Zoom
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.