The Chairman invited the three public speakers to speak.
Richard Eley, addressed the Committee, who was registered to speak on behalf of Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce. He advised that they supported the four recommendations and agreed Cabinet should urgently consider the matter. He asked for an immediate suspension of the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan to enable it to be reviewed with a new evidence base, clear thinking and an open minded approach.
He raised concerns about the questionable projections within the report advising the methodology was experimental and algorithmic and that Plymouth University had used untried and experimental mathematical technique and should be treated with caution.
Martin Shaw, raised concerns on behalf of the residents of West Seaton. He advised they generally welcomed the new study but questioned the previous lines drawn by the Shoreline Management Plan as the lines did not correspond with the pattern of erosion in recent times.
He suggested exploring whether the study that indicated the assumption of the Shoreline Management Plan that the western side of Seaton should be a management realignment zone and whether it was sustainable because the study had suggested more serious damage to properties and roads between Seaton and Beer which would have serious implications for residents.
There was concerns about the assumptions of the Shoreline Management Plan and concerns that the Beach Management Plan was operating on a too limited framework and on the assumption on erosion from below. Mr Shaw drew Members attention to the rainfall erosion in 2012 resulting in a landslip in Old Beer Road and said this was likely to be a problem again.
Karen Boyes, a resident of Seaton Hole, asked Members to consider the provision of the South West coastal path and raised concerns that the path between Seaton and Beer was disappearing. She also asked Members to consider the incorporation of a disability friendly beach access at Seaton Hole into future plans.
The Service Lead – Strategic Planning and Development Management presented the report setting out a methodology for defining areas that may be affected by physical change to the coast over the next 100 years. The report showed a pilot study area was used from the coastline of Sidmouth to the edge of Lyme Regis to look at coast erosion and likely impacts from factors such as increase in the rate of sea levels due to climate change.
Members noted the report reflected a precautionary approach and was a worst case scenario, a method endorsed by the Environment Agency and did not take account of the coastal protection measures being planned.
The Service Lead – Planning Strategy and Development Management advised the work was for planning purposes and the study was proposed to be used in the production of the new Local Plan to help identify coastal change management areas where policies may be needed to affect what is acceptable in planning terms.
Members also noted that a press release had been issued in advance of the meeting to highlight the difference between previous studies and acknowledged that the work would be of concern to residents in those areas.
The Chairman welcomed comments from non-committee members.
Councillor Jung, Portfolio Holder for Coast, Countryside and Environment advised as a Local Planning Authority there was a need to demonstrate that management plans had been considered when proposing an area for coastal management. He advised work was being done on the beach management plans for Sidmouth and Seaton Hole. He acknowledged the report highlighted severe coastal change predictions and said work was being done with partners to help coastal communities to protect natural habitat and suggested an alternative proposal.
The Chairman welcomed comments from Committee Members.
Comments made during discussion included:
· Concerns raised about using an untested and incomplete paper for planning purposes;
· If this report is a worst case scenario we should avoid building in places that may, in time, should the worst happen be underwater;
· Clarification was sought whether there would be inland flood maps that reflected this reality; The Service Lead – Strategic Planning and Development Management advised the Environment Agency inland flood maps echo the precautionary approach which they endorse and is reinforced by government guidance;
· A question was raised whether planning policies would reflect what is currently happening to the climate;
· A question was raised whether the Environment Agency would produce reliable information on surface water flooding which is connected with coastal erosion;
· Guidance was sought from the Service Lead – Strategic Planning and Development Management on the proposed amendment to the recommendations. In response the Service Lead – Strategic Planning and Development Management advised the recommendations allowed planning to be separate from the design of coastal defences. The study identified areas in the future Local Plan where certain forms of development might not be appropriate or vulnerable to change. He advised it was an appropriate approach to take as a local planning authority
· Predictions are frequently inaccurate;
· The report has been useful in highlighting some of the shortcomings of the current Shoreline Management Plan particularly the variations in the rates of erosion along the cliffs;
· The report should not be ignored for planning changes and we should apply the same precautionary principles as Plymouth University;
· Alternative proposals were discussed and dismissed.
The following amendments to the recommendation was proposed by Councillor Mike Howe and seconded by Councillor Paul Arnott.
4. Members recommend that further specialist combined work is carried out combining the planning requirements and engineering hold the line solution to provide a more fully informed paper to Cabinet;
5. To thank the University for providing the results on the pilot scheme and to discuss with them how this work can be amalgamated with the recent and planned engineering, flood and coastal scheme to provide a best case scenario for Cabinet to work through.
The Chairman requested that a vote take place on the motion. The motion was put to committee and with an overall majority the motion was carried with no abstentions.
1. That the erosion lines for the Sidmouth to Lyme Regis coast be noted for planning purposes;
2. That the proposed methodology for any further work on the remainder of the East Devon coast and for any designation of Coastal Change Management Areas through the local plan process be noted;
3. That the proposed next steps be considered and an approach to communicating the issues heighted in this report to affected residents and businesses be agreed;
4. That further specialist combined work to carry out combining the planning requirements and engineering “hold the line solution” to provide a more fully informed paper to Cabinet be agreed;
5. To thank the University for providing the result on the pilot scheme and to discuss with them how this work can be amalgamated with the recent and planned engineering, flood and coastal scheme to provide a best case scenario for Cabinet to work through be agreed.