River restoration project to turn clock back 200 years to avoid ‘catastrophic’ flooding

A view of salt marshes in the Lower Otter Estuary - the aim of the Lower Otter Restoration Project i

A view of salt marshes in the Lower Otter Estuary - the aim of the Lower Otter Restoration Project is to create more of these. - Credit: Archant

Turning back the clock 200 years with a river restoration costing nine million pounds could prevent ‘catastrophic’ flooding in Budleigh Salterton.

The Lower Otter Restoration Project (LORP) has revealed its latest plans for the estuary as part of ongoing proposals to restore it to its historic channels and allow the River Otter to reclaim its floodplains.

The scheme was set back earlier this year when a bid for lottery funding was rebuffed.

Project leaders have now revealed how they want to progress should it raise the cash needed to complete the work, estimated to be between £8million and £9m.

Dr Sam Bridgewater, of LORP, said: “We want to restore the estuary to something like its condition just over 200 years ago before embankments were built to claim new land for agriculture.

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“These defences are now failing and we want to act before a catastrophic, uncontrolled breach occurs.”

Clinton Devon Estates and the Environment Agency, which are leading the project, have been considering four options for the scheme. At a consultation event held in Budleigh Salterton last summer, members of the public backed ‘option three’, which involves keeping most of the existing embankments with minor breaches of the river banks.

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This would also involve South Farm Road being raised and the aqueduct at Budleigh Brook being removed.

Project leaders have now given their backing to this option.

Dr Bridgewater added: “This option allows us to secure and improve access and amenities, including Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club and the South West Coastal Path, protect the old municipal tip from erosion, while also providing new benefits for both nature and the public.”

Earlier this year the Lower Otter Restoration Project announced it had failed in a bid to get Heritage Lottery funding.

Budleigh mayor Tom Wright, who also chairs the LORP stakeholder’s group, said ‘initial proposals’ had been submitted to Devon County Council for an embankment with culverts to raise South Farm Road.

A further public exhibition on the project is set to be held later this year.

For more information on the chosen option go to www.lower otterrestorationproject.co.uk

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