Estuary wetland ‘could boost tourism’

08:00 12 May 2014

The Otter estuary.

The Otter estuary.

Archant

Plans to help reduce flooding in the Otter Valley could have the added bonus of creating a wetland habitat which would send birdwatchers flocking to Budleigh.

That’s the view of Mike Williams, who is leading the Lower Otter Restoration Project for Clinton Devon Estates, writes Sean Keywood.

Mr Williams also says that new bridges could be built to enable the popular footpath along the River Otter to pass over potential breaches in the embankment.

His comments came during a visit to Budleigh Salterton Town Council, in which he briefed them about the project.

The plan, still under consultation, is currently to reintroduce tidal flooding to the estuary, allowing it to breach protective embankments.

The Otter Estuary is already popular with wildlife spotters, however Mr Williams, who is on assignment from the Environment Agency, says if the project goes ahead, the resulting wetland would be a boon for nature, mirroring the success of the wetland project in the Axe Estuary.

He said: “There is the potential for the local economy to benefit from greater numbers of visitors. You only have to look at the Axe Estuary wetlands to see the number of people coming as a good thing.

“If the Otter is developed into something similar there is real potential there, not only for it to have its own asset, but for this part of East Devon to become even more of an attraction for people coming to visit.”

The plan to breach embankments has led to fears that access could be lost, but Mr Williams has insisted that maintaining this is a top priority.

He said: “In order to do the project we have a lot to consider. Public right of way is right at the top of that list.

“The footpath that runs up the Otter is one of the busiest in Devon. If it were to be breached that path would cease to exist in its current form. Normally, what happens is you seek a diversion but here there are no alternatives.

“We believe if that were the approach we would be likely to fail at a public enquiry, so we are looking at a scheme to maintain these rights of way by putting bridges in place.”

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