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Meeting of the Paignton Sea Wall group. Monday 29th March 2021.

Meeting of the Paignton Sea Wall group. Monday 29th March 2021.

Report by Lionel Uden.

The Zoom meeting started promptly at 16.00 and was chaired by Dave Edmundson, Torbay Council Assistant Director of Planning, Housing and Climate Change.

Kevin Mowat, who has the remit for the sea wall was on leave.

We heard from Tim Jones, Head of Engineering for TDA.

He related that discussion regarding sea protection for Paignton was first raised about ten years ago. He stated that much of the sea front and lower town of Paignton was on reclaimed land.

The level of some parts of Paignton were 2.3 metres A.o.D. (above ordnance datum) above sea level to you and me, whereas some of the highest tides were 2.8 metres AoD so even today we have a flood risk for many properties, right up to the top of Torbay Road, as far as the bus station and the surrounding roads and properties.

In those years there were nine considerations. Here are the main details of four of them.

1. Do nothing and there will be flooding events, roughly one in every ten years. This was rejected.

2. Enhancing the primary sea defence. This would require a sea wall with a height of 2.8 to 3.2 metres. Also this wall would require some level of secondary protection.

3. Building along the line suggested in the council’s recently published plans. In this scheme the height of the wall could be restricted to 1.1 metres at the Paignton end and 1.8 metres at the Preston end. The added advantage of building along this line, the seaward edge of the green, there would be some level of secondary protection as much of the force of the waves would be expended before hitting the wall. Further, at the Preston end, much of the wall would be hidden by running between the beach huts. Many of the storms that the the wall is designed to protect, the lower areas of the town are expected to be accompanied with high rainfall and this needs consideration otherwise a different cause of flooding could occur. The soil of the green is virtually impermeable, water hardly drains through it. Tim Jones explained that there are huge tanks beneath the green designed to hold the excess water that would run down from higher ground.

4. Some sort of offshore structure was considered but offshore Torbay is a marine protected area, sea grass, sea horses, etc. So that is a ‘no go.’

The other schemes were not mentioned or at least I didn’t hear them. I assume they were non starters.

The new plans/drawings by Richard Kaskow that appeared today were discussed but to build a wall of sufficient height on the line of the existing sea wall (the seaward side of the prom road) would mean a considerably higher wall and it would be subject to the full force of the oncoming waves.

There were other considerations as well but I couldn’t write quickly enough to record them all. Suffice to say that they were not considered viable.

Much of the remaining time was spent regarding the designs to be depicted in relief on the pre-cast sections and Lydia Johnson, who has been co-ordinating suggestions gave us some idea of what was possible. These panels, precast concrete sections, would be about 2 metres long and it is envisioned that there would be 6 different designs repeating themselves along the length of the wall. She has had several suggestions from local groups, e.g. Churston School, Torbay Youth Trust and Paignton Community College amongst others. Nothing has yet been decided. She has had 765 views of the designs. Design consultation closes, 9th April.

Tim Jones talked about what methods might be used to block off the necessary openings. Hinged gates were his preferred method but openings would be kept to the minimum considered necessary. There would be some ‘up and over’ places in addition to openings.

There was much criticism regarding the lack of publicity and public consultation. We heard from Jo Penhaligan of Torbay council that there had been publicity on the council website, in the Beach Hut magazine, an 8 page spread in the council’s news sheet.

The web page had been viewed 730 times. 4 articles had appeared in the local press, Devon Live, Torbay Weekly and the local radio as well as 40 posters showing the sea wall plans on sites along the sea front. I can vouch for the posters, I have seen them.

Dave Edmondson made assurances that the community’s views would be listened to and noted in particular questions regarding graffiti. Lydia Johnson expressed the view that as the panels would have relief designs cast into them they would be less attractive to graffiti artists.

The planning application, originally due March/April will now be delayed until consultation is completed.

The meeting closed at 18.00.

The next meeting is scheduled for Monday 26th April at 16.00