The estimated cost of a coastal defense program to protect the seafront at Sidmouth and East Beach in Devon has risen from £14m to £19m, with rising material prices and energy costs being among the reasons for the change.
To protect the town’s seafront, the Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme aims to build at least one rocky island. It would also increase the splash wall by 100mm along the majority of the plaza and by 1m on a small section of it.
With regard to the East beach, the plan foresees the construction of a 120 m rocky spur and its reconstitution with pebbles to recreate the beach that has been lost.
This new scheme was approved last October by the Sidmouth Beach Management Advisory Group, following increased funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) which enabled the group and Royal Haskoning DVH consultants to investigate options previously rejected due to lack of funding. .
The new plan was preferred because it eliminated the need for a 1m high splash wall to replace the current dwarf wall, which some feared would be an eyesore and separate the city from the sea.
At the time, the estimated cost of the overall program was estimated at £14 million. Funding was to be provided by East Devon District Council (EDDC), Devon County Council, Sidmouth Town Council and the South West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee, along with funding from the Defra grant.
In less than a year, the cost rose by £5 million. EDDC cited a number of reasons for the rising costs, including: up to 200% increase in material costs, 50% increase in diesel costs; staff shortages due to Brexit; Covid issues; and other energy costs increase.
Despite this, the project’s board and advisory group propose to take the next step, with plans to secure additional funding from the government or by filling the gap if necessary.
“This is not the only project affected by these issues and a campaign across the country has been launched by all agencies developing flood and coastal defense projects, seeking to change government funding to allow projects The Sidmouth BMS is used as an example to explain the urgent need for additional funding to prevent these government-funded programs from failing,” EDDC said.
EDDC is currently preparing its business case for the program to submit to the Environment Agency for funding in late summer. If approved, council expects to appoint a consultancy to undertake the detailed design early next year ahead of public consultations between next summer and fall 2024. A contractor is expected to be appointed between fall 2024 and early 2025 to allow construction to begin in spring 2025.
Geoff Jung, EDDC Portfolio Holder for Coastal Countries and Environment and Chair of the Sidmouth BMP Project Advisory Group, said: “The estimated increase in costs is very worrying, but the advisory group considers that this work must be carried out urgently to protect Sidmouth from the increasing risk of predicted storms due to climate change. Therefore, the recommendation to proceed to the next step will be submitted to a full Board meeting shortly. I would like to thank our engineering officers, our consultants and all the members of the advisory group for all their work in reaching this important milestone.
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