Dunes to take over?

PUBLISHED: 11:51 21 November 2008 | UPDATED: 10:02 10 June 2010

QUEENS Drive could be 'moved' back to combat coastal erosion and rising sea levels giving a bigger and better Exmouth beach. In a possible glimpse of the future, scientists and engineers this week presented suggestions to tackle the 'inevitable' damage

QUEENS Drive could be 'moved' back to combat coastal erosion and rising sea levels - giving a bigger and better Exmouth beach.In a possible glimpse of the future, scientists and engineers this week presented suggestions to tackle the 'inevitable' damage caused by tidal forces and climate change.It follows a dire prediction by the Environment Agency in last week's Journal that, in 100 years' time, parts of Exmouth could be under three metres of flood water if nothing was done.Altering Queen's Drive is just one option being mooted in the Shoreline Management Plan (SMP), which could see established coastal defences - such as groynes - replaced over the next century on a 400km swathe of coastline all the way from Rame Head, near Plymouth, to Durlstone Head, near Swanage.Locally, groynes could be replaced by bigger 'beach buffers' by 'recharging' the beaches at Exmouth and Dawlish Warren.This, in the short term, could involve dredging sediment from Pole Sands to shore up the beaches. The "buffers", it is argued, would be a more natural defence and would be better placed to protect the estuary.However in the long term - from 50 to 100 years - Dawlish Warren and Queens Drive could be 'realigned'. Exmouth's popular seafront drive could be moved back anything from a few feet to as far as the cliffs. And, if engineers did allow the beach to take over the existing road and encroach on The Maer, it would have implications for the tennis courts and the cricket club.This new line would turn-back time to pre-1914 - to before a huge chunk of the current shoreline was reclaimed from the sea. It would allow the sand dunes to act 'naturally' and not be constrained by the road and wall. Jonathon Rogers, who produced the Exe Estuary Coastal Management Study for specialist consultants Halcrow, said a number of factors had to be investigated. "There is no way this would go ahead if (after the consultation next year) it was deemed inappropriate, economically or politically," he said.This was reiterated by strategy manager Graham Smith who said the project was to not only protect the beaches - but protect the tourist economy for years to come. "We will be consulting residents, businesses and stakeholders to find the best solution."Full details of the schemes will not be finalised until after a full consultation period."Cllr Mike Haines, chairman of the South Devon and Dorset Coastal Authorities Group, said: "If we do proceed with the current proposals then, in the short term, people can expect bigger, better beaches and a revitalised tourist industry."While the long term options for some areas seem a little dramatic, it's important to understand they are only technical possibilities - not hard and fast plans.

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