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Exe Estuary Management Partnership

For people, for wildlife, for the future

Exe Estuary Winter Forum 2024 Feedback Report


Last Updated


The Winter Stakeholder Forum was chaired by Ted Draper and was a successful event with 102 people attending in-person. Presentations included:  

  • Water Quality at a Catchment Level: A high-level overview – Alex Swan, East Devon Catchment Coordinator (Environment Agency)  
  • Water Quality of the Exe Estuary – Stephanie Harper-Chung, Exe Estuary Officer (Exe Estuary Management Partnership)  
  • South West Water: A water company perspective – Nick Paling, Stakeholder Engagement & Collaboration (South West Water)  
  • Environment Agency: Enforcement and Monitoring – Clarissa Newell, Area Environment Manager (Environment Agency) 
  • Environmental Campaigning Group – Giles Bristow, CEO (Surfers Against Sewage)  
  • River User Action Groups: End Sewage Convoys And Poollution Exmouth (ESCAPE), Friends of the River Exe (FORE) – Andy Tyerman(ESCAPE); Mary Culhane & Clare Jeffery, Coordinators (FORE) 

Soapbox Session presentations 

  • Update on the Harbour Revision Order – Grahame Forshaw, Harbour Master (Exeter Port Authority)  
  • Opening of the Lower Otter Restoration Project – Rick Lockwood, Otter Estuary Ranger (Lower Otter Restoration Project)  
  • Exmouth Sea Scouts – Rob Masters, Scout Leader (Exmouth Sea Scouts) 

The Forum agenda and presentations can be found on the EEMP website at:  

Forum Chair: Ted Draper  

Forum Vice Chair: Gordon Betteridge  

Exe Estuary Officer: Stephanie Harper-Chung  

Contact: / 01392 382236 

Sectoral Balance

The sectoral representation of attendees was analysed to investigate the balance of interests presented at the Forum. The attendees have been grouped according to sector, for example “Local Authority” also includes the various partnerships which are hosted within a local authority. As shown by the pie chart below there was a range of representation of different sectors from Commercial Interest to those representing Local Authorities which had high representation including several councillors and partnership representatives. Most of the groups are fairly well balanced in line with the expected proportion of interest groups on the estuary, with representation from all sectors. A large representation from the Recreation sector was present, likely due to a large portion of the Forum content having relevance to this group. 

Feedback Form Summary

Of the 102 people who attended 39 completed feedback forms. The results can be seen in the table below:

QuestionStrongly AgreeAgreeDisagreeStrongly disagree
The Forum was worth attending69%28%3%0%
The presentations were interesting51%46%3%0%
The themes covered were relevant to me41%59%0%0%
I would like to attend the Forum again in the future67%33%0%0%
The Forum is a key opportunity for me to learn more about the Exe Estuary, get involved and have my views heard69%28%3%0%
I value the work of the Exe Estuary Partnership72%28%0%0%
The venue was suitable (if disagree please provide suggestions below)54%33%13%0%

100% of respondents agreed that the themes covered were relevant and they would attend the forum again and they value the work of the Exe Estuary Partnership.

The majority (97%) agreed the forum was worth attending, the presentations were interesting, and the forum is a key opportunity to learn about the Exe Estuary and have views heard.

There was an issue of lighting outside the venue on the evening. DCC rectified this issue the next day after it being raised, and the Exe Estuary Partnership will consider parking and outside access for future venues.

If you disagreed with any of the above statements, please explain why, and offer suggestions on how this could be improved at future events:
·         The venue is too formal and didn’t allow for discussion.

·         It was hard to locate the chambers from the car park, and poor lighting.

·         A venue with participants on the same level as speakers would allow for more discussion.

·         A lot of content covered, but no real clear actions going forward.

·         Too much text on some slides, and too small to read.

·         The presentations were interesting but too many.

·         Where speakers are representing organisations, it would be good to try and have people who can answer a whole range of questions. The speaker from SWW was very knowledgeable about his specialism, and I had a very interesting conversation with him before the meeting started. However, he was unable to answer a straightforward question about funding, which was frustrating.

·         More time for speakers.

·         More time for questions.

·         What changes can be influenced by the EEMP

·         There are more groups forming around environmental concerns – it would be good to hear from them

·         See priorities as assessed at 2023 Powderham Castle meeting. I don’t think a rigid rank order emerged from our discussions!

All of the above are valid points and will be taken into account for the next Forum event.

Suggested future topics/presentations (including local/community projects):

  • Any controversial HRO proposals
  • Making the canal more accessible to paddle boards and canoes, and charging structure
  • Citizen science initiatives, and how users can be more involved
  • Planning and the impact on the area
  • A local action plan for water quality
  • Exclusion zone process
  • Road run-off threats

Any further questions?

  • Has Countess Weir STW been upgraded?
  • More information on air quality affecting water quality?
  • Where does the run off from the M5 bridge end up and is it being monitored

Suggested future venues

  • The Ocean, Exmouth
  • Guildhall, Exeter
  • Civic centre, Exeter
  • Langstone Cliff Hotel
  • Exmouth Scout building
  • Powderham estate

Question Session

Speakers: Giles Bristow (Surfers Against Sewage CEO), Rick Lockwood (Ranger for the Lower Otter Restoration Project), Clarissa Newell (Environment Agency Environment Manager for Devon and Cornwall), Nick Paling (Stakeholder Engagement South West Water), Stephanie Harper-Chung (Exe Estuary Management Partnership Officer),

1. Clem Davis, resident: What are the impacts from water runoff from roads into the Exe Estuary, particularly focused on the A376?
Stephanie Harper-Chung: From a DCC perspective developments must consider this in their environmental appraisal. As an example of remediation, many schemes design in sustainable urban drainage (SuDs) which can reduce the impact of diffuse pollution.

Giles Bristow: There needs to be a cross government plan on sources of diffuse pollution. Road tyres are one of the worst producers of micro plastics.

Alex Swan: Thank you for raising this today. I have already met with you to discuss this issue, and the environment programme team at the Environment Agency do take this issue seriously. We have limited resources but are working in partnership across the catchment.

Nick Paling: Whilst working at West Country Rivers Trust we investigated road runoff and if it impacts the health of rivers. There are techniques to monitor these specific pollutants but are at present very expensive. There is potential to look at further what impact they are having and what threat they are to users but are not the top priority at present.

2. Wildlife Warden Teignmouth: How do you (South West Water) prioritise investment in storm overflows? What criteria do you use and is it quantitative or qualitative?
Nick Paling: South West Water works with the regulators to identify top priorities. This is within a regulatory framework agreed with the Environment Agency and Natural England. In terms of storm overflows the regulator uses scientific data and have a clear hierarchy on how to prioritise looking at ecological damage, threat to human health and shellfish waters. Every storm overflow in catchments works differently, and there has to be an investigation into each one to work out what is driving an overflow. There is huge variation on each asset.

Giles Bristow: Citizen science data is not respected in this process. It needs to be as we (citizens) know where there is a problem.

3. Resident: What requirement is there for buffer strips along water courses? How important is it for farmers to change the crops they grow due to climate change/environment and water usage?

Alex Swan: There are very good payments in the new farm schemes for buffer strips along water courses.

Additional information: Farmers who have claimed rural payments since 2005 must follow a set of rules called cross compliance. Simple 1-2m buffer strips on watercourses are a condition of cross-compliance, whilst many farmers voluntarily or through further schemes adopt more substantial buffer strips. In the literature water course buffer strips are commonly referred to as ‘riparian buffer strips’. In Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier and Higher Tier buffer strip payments must be between four and twelve meter’s wide, and can not have the application of fertilisers, pesticides, manures etc. More information is available on the website.

4. Richard Robinson Exmouth Rowing Club Chair: How much faith do you think my members have in local bathing waters? We see South West Water investing vast sums in Bristol and Bournemouth instead of in Devon and Cornwall.

Nick Paling: I run the South West Water stakeholder forum, which anyone is welcome to attend. We discuss topics such as this, how the company is financed etc. On our website our documents explaining how dividends etc. The next forum is on the 12h of March.

Giles Bristow:  Through the Surfers Against Sewage app 2000 people have reported they have been sick from poor water quality. 60% of those reported were from beaches which state the water quality is excellent. Can we trust what we are told?

5. Sue North Exe Sailing Club: South West Water received a 2.1million pound fine for sewage pollution, how was the money spent?

Clarissa Newell – It doesn’t come back to the Environment Agency and the local area, the money goes straight back to the government. Enforcement undertakings are fines for accidental incidents, and this money does stay locally. The government is potentially going to change where the money for the fines goes, watch this space.

6. Local resident: I am concerned about the rapid expansion of new developments, and local capacity?

Nick Paling: South West Water have a legal duty that sewage treatment infrastructure is able to meet the need for new housing. In the latest drainage and waste water management plan we have a proposal for new sewage works in East Devon. South West Water are a stakeholder in the planning process, but can not be a break on development.

Soapbox Session Questions

1. Can canoes and paddle boards enter the Lower Otter Restoration Project area?

Rick Lockwood: Our priority is limiting bird and wildlife disturbance. We want to keep people out of the newly flooded area. There was historic use up the River Otter and we don’t have any plans to change that.

2. Who paid for the Lower Otter Restoration Project?

Rick Lockwood:  It was funded by the Environment Agency and Clinton Devon Estates. You can find out more here: Funding: Lower Otter Restoration Project