At its meeting this morning the Beach Management Plan’s Advisory Group decided to recommend that the Alternative Option for the scheme be taken forward as the basic design.
The Preferred Option, which was the badly named option we had had until now, has been very unpopular. Perhaps the most disliked part of it was the need for a 1 metre high splash wall all along the Esplanade.
It was also not the option which the consultants at the time (CH2M) thought was the best technical option. We ended up with it purely because that was all we could afford and something needed to be done to slow the erosion at Pennington Point and East Beach.
The VGS website contains much information about the course of the BMP; to find it all use the search at the top right-hand side of the page; the Futures Forum, which was a predecessor of our current posts also has a large repository of BMP information. In addition we have pages where reports of the various meetings can be found. Not only have we had a representative on the Advisory Group (formerly known as the Steering Group ) but we have also been represented on the Pause sub-group which has been working hard during the last 6 months to produce a sensible alternative to the Preferred Option.
We had the chance to pause and reassess because the Government has changed the rules concerning funding and EDDC were in the fortunate position that it was a positive change for us. East Devon District Council therefore has more money to play with.
Even the basic Preferred Option cost more than EDDC could get in funds; and thus many unusual ways had been tried to raise extra money, including the donation box on the Esplanade. The idea that people would want to fund something they disliked intensely always seemed a little illogical.
Now we not only have the money to fund that despised Preferred Option, but we can do even better!
Unfortunately there isn’t enough money to do exactly what we would want so the scheme will be a compromise. It will probably still be necessary to have the large groyne on East Beach. However, it looks as though we can probably avoid having a big splash wall all along the Esplanade by having an island or islands off Town Beach.
The fact that we are still at the ‘probably’ stage may be a disappointment for some, but in reality it is better that we are not fixed in our ideas at the moment.
Where we are and where we hope to be going
The current situation is that there is a ‘probable’ design, and using that design as a sort of ‘placeholder’ will allow us to construct an Outline Business Case and present it to the Environment Agency for approval. If they approve it then they will release the money we would need to do all the design work required to build it, and to actually build it. So the money become guaranteed at that stage and not just hypothetically available.
The design work which will be needed is the Detailed Design stage; this will include making a model of Sidmouth’s shore and sea bed in a huge water tank and trying out what happens when you place different elements in different positions.
It is this stage which will tell us whether we will need one or two islands off Sidmouth and if we need the groyne off East Beach or if it could perhaps be replaced in some way, perhaps by an island. It will also solve questions about any splash wall.
While it may be disheartening to still be in the position where things are not settled after this whole process has been going on for so many years, it would be foolish to push forward too fast and lose opportunities.
The VGS supports taking this tentative design forward to an Outline Business Case; and will maintain pressure during the Detailed Design stage to encourage thoughtful designing and to avoid the taking of easy options through lack of will.