Lower Otter £15m restoration plans take major step forward’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 13 October 2020

The Lower Otter Estuary in Budleigh Salterton. Picture: PACCo

The Lower Otter Estuary in Budleigh Salterton. Picture: PACCo

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A planning application to help a Budleigh Salterton beauty spot adapt to climate change has been hailed as a ‘major step forward’ for a £15million estuary restoration project.

The Lower Otter Estuary which could be restored to its historic flood lains. Picture: PACCOThe Lower Otter Estuary which could be restored to its historic flood lains. Picture: PACCO

If approved, the Lower Otter Restoration Project (LORP) will reconnect the River Otter to its historic floodplain and return the lower Otter Valley to a more natural condition.

The scheme will also create 55 hectares of mudflats, saltmarsh and other estuarine habitats.

LORP is a partnership between the Environment Agency, landowner Clinton Devon Estates and the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust that currently manages the estuary.

The Environment Agency has submitted plans to East Devon District Council on behalf of LORP as the £15 million project enters its final phase.

The planning application is the culmination of seven years of public consultation, planning and detailed discussions between a wide range of stakeholders.

A marine licence application has also been submitted to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO). If successful, work will start next year and be completed by spring 2023.

Dr Sam Bridgewater, head of wildlife and conservation at Clinton Devon Estates, said: “The planning application is a major step for the project which arose initially from the Estate looking for ways to manage the area in a sustainable way for people and wildlife in the face of climate change and rising sea levels.

“We have worked very closely with a wide range of stakeholders who have helped us reach this milestone and we are grateful for their input over the years.

“We had hoped to hold a public exhibition to share these plans with local people but the Covid-19 pandemic has forced us to rule this out.

“Instead we will be outlining our proposals on the project website and hope to be able to answer any questions people may have online.”

The creation of new habitats and restoration of the site will be achieved by breaching the embankment that currently separates agricultural land and Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club - which will be relocated to an alternative site - from the river and estuary.

This will allow a much greater extent of the original floodplain to flood at high tide and drain at low tide producing mudflats and saltmarsh for wading birds. There will also be areas of reedbed and grazing marsh. Once established, the new site will become a wildlife reserve of international importance within five years.

By working in partnership and sharing common aims for the Lower Otter Valley, the Environment Agency, Clinton Devon Estates and East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust hope the aspirations of all three organisations can be fulfilled.

Mark Rice, environment manager for the Environment Agency, said: “We hope that our vision for more sustainable management of the Otter Estuary will be supported and that by working in partnership we can deliver long term benefits for people and wildlife.”

If given the go-ahead, the following will take place:

Breaches in the embankments and improvements to the lower level paths across the breaches

Removal of 380m of South Farm Road highway and replaced with a highway section south of the existing, raised around 2.5metres higher

Creation of a new 30m span highway bridge

A new footbridge carrying the South West Coastal Path

Removal of a small section of the existing landfill site to create the new South Farm Road highway bridge. Installation of additional edge protection and capping to the landfill site

Creation of a new parking area, near South Farm Road, with spaces for up to 30 vehicles

Creation of three bird sanctuary islands

Budleigh Brook to be realigned and the aqueduct to be removed

Planting of new and improved habitats

Installation of six new public viewing areas

Existing footpath to be improved and raised in height

Installation of public information and warning signs

Diversion of existing footpath running to south of the landfill onto the landfill

East Devon District Council will make the final decision


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