Dawlish Warren Beach Management Post-scheme Review
The Environment Agency (EA) Dawlish Warren Beach Management Post-scheme Review is now complete. The investigation looked at existing, and proposes any changes to current Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) for the site that was originally identified as part of the Exe Estuary FCERM Strategy 2013. This Strategy is planned to be updated following further review and consultation by 2027.
The review proposals identified follow engagement and feedback from a range of stakeholders, including regulators, landowners, interest groups and the public. This approach sought consensus but has highlighted ongoing disagreements between proposed flood and erosion risk management, environmental, amenity and commercial interests, both locally and estuary-wide, that are unlikely to be resolved in the short-term.
The review recommends that, in the main, no changes are proposed to existing site management as it supports the principles of the current Exe Estuary FCERM Strategy and Dawlish Warren Beach Management Scheme FCERM objectives ie ‘Securing sand spit storm sheltering function to wider estuary until 2040s’ and ‘Reducing local flood risk to Dawlish Warren Village’. The review also recognised however that current site management does not support the Environmental objective of ‘Achieving at least ‘unfavourable recovering’ condition for the Dawlish Warren Special Areas of Conservation (SAC), and ‘favourable’ condition for the Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) sites at sand spit by 2030’ which are unlikely to be met. Therefore, the proposals identified and feedback collated from this review will remain draft until updated and finalised as part of the Exe Estuary FCERM Strategy update by 2027.
Key Messages identified from the review include
- The spit will continue to change with ongoing trend for beach lowering which will increase flood and erosion risk locally and estuary-wide over time
- Main revetment defences and flood wall provide a good standard of protection and there is justification to maintain for the long term
- Further beach recharge is not justified for FCERM purposes
- Existing geotube and groyne defences reduce flood and erosion risk but are unsustainable, work against natural processes and, to meet planning conditions, need to be removed by 2049
- The exposed geotube will continue to be ‘patch repaired’ until removal by 2049
- Remnant gabion baskets reduce flood and erosion risk to the wider estuary but are unsustainable and work against natural processes
- Remnant groynes (16-18) have lost FCERM function and should be removed prior to failure. Work during autumn this year has already removed a majority of groynes 18 and 17.
- Risk to the wider estuary will increase due to the combined effects of climate change and the spit gradually losing its wave barrier function following the removal of structures prior to 2049
- Risk Management Authorities, utilities, infrastructure providers and stakeholders need to be aware of risks and plan for this eventuality
- Ongoing disagreement about how the site should be managed is recognised but unlikely to be resolved in the short term.