Exe Estuary Forum Feedback Report

Exe Estuary Management Partnership Winter Forum 2020

Exe Estuary Winter Forum
Tuesday 4th February 2020
Council Chambers, County Hall


The annual Winter Forum was a success with 113 people attending to hear presentations and provide feedback on:

  • A roundup of the year from the Exe Estuary Management Partnership, including an update from Exeter Harbour Authority (Stephanie Harper- Chung, Exe Estuary Officer)
  • Devon Climate Emergency (Doug Eltham, Devon County Council)

Forum members were given the opportunity to take part in an interactive discussion on flood defence schemes including presentations on:

  • Response to issues related to Dawlish Warren Beach Management Scheme (Martin Davies, Environment Agency)
  • Progress of Exmouth Tidal Defence Scheme (Jim Faux, Environment Agency)
  • Update on St James’ Weir (David Bartram, Exeter City Council)

There was also an opportunity for Forum members to hear short soapbox sessions (local community initiatives) on:

  • Invasive Non-Native Species: Pacific oyster project (Jay Boyle, Exe Estuary Management Partnership)
  • Trial of mixed shellfishery at Lympstone (Jason Ingham, Ingham Fisheries)
  • Warren Golf Club – successes and working with the natural environment (Alison Langmead and Annkathrin Sharp, Warren Golf Club)

The Forum presentations and key discussion points can be found on the EEMP website at www.exe-estuary.org/exe-forum.

Forum Chair: Jeremy Rawlings
Forum Vice Chair: Ted Draper

Exe Estuary Officer: Stephanie Harper-Chung
Contact: exeestua@devon.gov.uk / 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 around the Exe including several councillors. These groups are fairly well balanced and are generally 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 the relevance of the flood defence discussions which impacted on the navigation of the Exe. There was also good representation from commercial interests and navigation / mooring / docks on the Exe, which is a positive indication that local businesses are being engaged with partnership work. There was also a large number of local authority representatives, this included a range of authorities from parish councils, district councils and Devon County Council who attended to discuss the Devon Climate Emergency.

Pie chart showing the sectoral balance of attendees


Of the 113 people that attended the Exe Estuary Forum, 36 completed feedback forms, the results of which can be seen below:

Questions Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree
The Forum was worth attending 65% 35% 0% 0%
The presentations were interesting 35% 62% 3% 0%
The themes covered were relevant to me 19% 78% 3% 0%
The venue was suitable 38% 57% 5% 0%
I would like to attend the Forum again in the future 62% 38% 0% 0%
The forum is a key opportunity for me to learn more about the Exe Estuary, get involved and have my views heard 57% 38% 5% 0%
I value the work of the Exe Estuary Partnership 70% 27% 3% 0%

These were positive with 100% of feedback stating that the Forum was worth attending, and that they would like to attend the Forum again. The large majority of attendees indicated that they found the presentations interesting, the themes relevant and that they value the work of the partnership, with the Forum a key opportunity for learning more about the estuary. Most found the venue to be suitable.

Comments received through these feedback forms are included at the end of this report in the Appendix, along with the feedback during discussions at the event.


A. Feedback Session Notes

  • Presentations

    A roundup of the year from the Exe Estuary Management Partnership
    Stephanie Harper-Chung, Exe Estuary Officer

    No questions were raised.

    Devon Climate Emergency
    Doug Eltham

    Question: How does the Devon plan tie in with neighbouring counties?

    Answer: There is liaison between counties at various levels. There are several officer groups and workshops have taken place which have had representatives from different counties. Several specific events have also been held – including South West Councils and Association of Directors of Environment, Planning and Transport conferences. We have been involved with Heart of the South West LEP, this doesn’t include Cornwall, but does include Somerset.

    Question: Is there a timescale on when the projections for sea level rise will become more accurate?

    Answer: The simple answer is no. The Met Office is involved in the Climate Impacts Group and therefore we can obtain the most up to date projections from them. It is an advancing area globally. I think the important things is to keep in mind the higher end of the projections.

    Comment: I think the action Devon is taking is commendable, proactive and community engaged. Thank you.

    Question: Is it in Devon policy to reduce petrol/diesel car use? There is always a  large amount of traffic leaving Exeter heading towards Exmouth especially from the Marsh Barton area. Is there any scope to push bus companies to add services? With the amount of traffic, I would have thought it would not need subsidising.

    Answer: It isn’t policy, but it is strategy. Specific provisions of commuting routes is a huge challenge and making routes viable is difficult. We will be looking at how funding can be better spent and lobbying for funding to be allocated more flexibly.

  • Interactive Discussion Session: Flood Defence Schemes

    Response to issues related to Dawlish Warren Beach Management Scheme
    Martin Davies, Environment Agency

    Question: What are the flood risk impacts of communities upstream?

    Answer: We have a commitment to maintain the resilience of Dawlish Warren until 2050. The large Geotube has not been exposed, the smaller Geotube that has been exposed only comprises the Warren Golf Course. With regard to the long-term strategy the issue is that it is a case of flood risk interest vs the natural state and movement of the estuary.

    Question: You say the Geotube will be in place till 2050, however climate change statistics from early in the evening state a possible sea level rise of 3m by 2080. At what point will we have to abandon the Warren?

    Answer: There will always be a conflict between the flood risk benefit and the natural movement. As long as the warren provides a flood risk benefit, there will be a case to maintain the scheme. Until 2050 we will continue to maintain the warren. It will become unsustainable when we start to have larger more frequent events. It can cope with large infrequent events and smaller frequent events, but large frequent events will cause a larger issue.

    Question: The graph doesn’t show build up of under 0.25m of sand. What are you going to do about sand effecting the mussel beds?

    Answer: 250mm is just how the data parameters have been set within the system used. Teignbridge District Council are undertaking a PCO survey which we will have the results for in April. We will take into account all the data available. Things change on a daily basis and are tricky to record. We will be obtaining evidence from others but what we can use is dependent on what’s available.

    Question: You say that is long-term change, but it is short-term after the works were completed in September 2017 mussels were already being covered in sand. The EA have a responsibility to move sand off the mussel beds.

    Answer: We need evidence to provide that is caused by the scheme and not just the natural movement of the estuary. It is not the Environment Agency’s responsibility to do that.

    Progress of Exmouth Tidal Defence Scheme
    Jim Faux, Environment Agency

    Question: Erosion at Exmouth has caused a drop of 2m. Don’t you think it’s time to look at the estuary as a whole?

    Answer: The 2012 Exe Estuary Strategy kicked off all projects on the estuary and helped to justify works at Dawlish Warren, Cockwood, Starcross and Exmouth. There was also a Beach Management Plan produced by East Devon District Council which indicated the long-term risk to Queen’s Drive. The long-term trend is not going to go away, and erosion will continue along Queen’s Drive due to the natural movement of the estuary.

    Update on St James’ Weir
    David Bartram, Director of Exeter City Council

    Question: In 2017 a survey of St James’ Weir was undertaken by the Environment Agency, the conclusion being it was unstable and needed action. Why did a survey take place if no action was going to be taken?

    Answer: Jim Faux – The Environment Agency wears lots of hats . One of the focus groups would have decided to survey the weir. However, this would have likely been done as a supervisory duty and that doesn’t guarantee funding towards any actions that came out of the survey.

    Question: Has it been confirmed who owns Trews Weir? Is there a timeframe for how long the weir will last?

    Answer: The main weir is owned by Exeter City Council. The smaller side weir is owned by the Environment Agency. There is no imminent risk of failure, however we would like to start works to the weir this financial year (from April). We will continue to monitor the weir in the interim.

    Question: If you cause deterioration, can you give the assurance that action will be taken?

    Answer: The weirs were built a very long time ago. Trews weir is significantly more substantially and stably built than St James’ Weir. I think there would be more warning that we had from St James’ Weir. We don’t want to jump in more readily as this may block the ability to obtain funding for a larger scheme.

  • Soapbox Sessions: Local Community Initiatives

    Session 1: Invasive None-Native Species: Pacific oyster project
    Jay Boyle, Exe Estuary Management Partnership

    Question: Pacific oysters – how do we avoid exacerbating the issue as kayaker and canoeists?

    Answer: The main thing is cleaning kayaks using fresh water between use especially when travelling around different areas. Follow standards.

    Answer: Jason Ingham – Exe is a clean river, in comparison to other estuaries and therefore it’s especially important when travelling between different estuaries.

    Session 2: Trial of mixed shellfishery at Lympstone
    Jason Ingham, Ingham Fisheries

    Question: Starcross Yacht Club would be happy to communicate with Jason in regard to marking out the area.

    Answer: I would be happy to start an open channel of communication. I would rather work with people than against them and I want to make sure boats aren’t damaged.

    Session 3: Warren Gold Club – successes and working with the natural environment
    Alison Langmead and Annkathrin Sharp, Warren Gold Club

    Question: There is a constant amount of burning on the warren. Any plans to reduce burning activity

    Answer: We burn a lot of natural material to keep in accordance with the designations. We are open to communicating with you. Burning and burying material was suggested to us.

    Question: Surely composting is an option?

    Answer: We have not received complaints about burning. We’ll talk to our partners at Devon Wildlife Trust about possible options. Composting is not an option due to the sensitivity of the site.

B. Comments Received from Feedback Forms

  • Improvements for future events

    “Chairman did a great job in keeping all the speakers to time”

    “Difficult to follow Environment Agency slides – too busy. Also couldn’t really see how the talk related to the issues raised by the scheme as set out by the vice chairman before the talk”

    “Speakers need portable mics”

    “Some of the presentations are not relevant to our organisation however they are interesting”

    “EA presentation as a PDF took some managing!”

    “The audio system worked better this year”

    “The temperature was too high – perhaps the Devon Climate Emergency should look at this!!”

    “Venue – more savings on CO2 emissions if the thermostat was reduced – temp far too high”

    “Sound system not adequate”

    “Thank you for this opportunity to learn more about your work – this is the first time I have attended this forum event”

    “Ensure all users and stakeholders are present to make sure a whole picture of the use of the Exe Estuary is understood, some sectors might be a bit reluctant”

    “Acoustics still not great”

    “Re interactive discussions: All speakers seemed ill informed/prepared for this session. Poor answers given to questions. Poor forward planning to resolve issues, some of which were created by EA!”

    “Martin Davies, EA. IT skills, presentation skills? Interesting topics though, enjoyable evening”

    “The EA need to be accountable not just watch!”

    “Sadly, we all – speakers and attendees – need to think about projecting what we have to say as the microphones make the voices louder but many points were lost because the microphones distorted the sound”

    “Thank you Stephanie for all the arrangements, it was a good turn out + useful occasion, as ever”

  • Suggestions for next Stakeholder Forum

    1. Venue suggestions


    “County Hall works well, plenty of parking”

    “Exeter university, particularly if there is an academic item on the agenda”

    “Ocean, Exmouth (top floor)”



    “Powderham or Stuart Lines”

    “Ocean, Exmouth”

    “Powderham Castle, Ocean”

    2. Future topics/presentations

    “Too early to say, but short updates on some of flood defences and impacts of work done so far”

    “Updates on women and climate change – flooding”

    “Future business and leisure initiatives on the Exe Estuary”

    “History of the river, going back to Roman times”

    “Water quality”

    “Plans for transition from carbon-based on board/ out board engines on the water”

    “Effects and effectiveness of Environment Agency “repair” works on Dawlish Warren”

    “Wildlife and especially fish migration/movement – pressure/changes/directions”

    “Talk from Harbour Master”

    “More exploration of balance between mitigation and adaptation in light of rising water”

    “Active discussions between different estuary users interests”

    “HRO Progress”

    “Changes in river levels and dredging”

    “Miles Blood-Smyth to talk about mussels”

    “Types, causes and strategies for dealing with pollution”

    3. Items for group discussion

    “How sea-level rise and erosion will impact on tourism and access to Exmouth and Dawlish Warren”

    “Issues relating to water safety. Conduct/behaviour in the estuary”

    “Future development of interpretation centres giving the public more information about the nature and commercial interest on the estuary”

    “Effective policy on depth monitoring”

    4. Other suggestions for future Forum events

    “Perhaps less content and more detail. Soapbox sessions are good but not long enough to provide any detail”

    “Put the microphone for the speakers directly next to the laptop used, to avoid the speaker turning away and addressing the big projection screen”

    “More information and publicity of estuary management e.g. in Exmouth Festival”

    ” Have all slides on an easy to use format!”

    “Please can water be provided with the drinks”

    “Steph has a great overview, does she have any suggestions of ‘users’ whose profile should be raised?”

    “Microphone management”

  • Feedback on the new Exe Estuary Management Partnership website

    “V. good – clear, relevant, easy to navigate”

    “Sounds good but haven’t seen it yet. Keep it up to date!”

    “Much improved, loads quickly and works on a phone, which will be really important for visitors to use”

    “Will look at new website, but looks easier to navigate”