Issue log for Lower Otter Restoration Project

Updated February 6 2017

Concern

 #

Concern Title

What is the question/ concern?

Responses from the Lower Otter Restoration Project Team

Date of last update

Status

1

Pursuit of a Single Solution Option

Current focus of project activities on developing a Single Solution Option is generating an irresistible momentum for that option which has yet to be justified. At least one or two alternative solution options (other than allowing the River Otter to spread by reconnecting it to its floodplain) need to be fully researched and assessed against quantitative and qualitative criteria

The South Devon and Dorset Shoreline Management Plan (June 2011) identified a policy of managed realignment for the Otter Estuary. There was widespread public consultation during the development of the plan. The lack of public funding for maintenance of existing defences was recognised.


A variety of options were explored to some extent in the Haycock Report. We recognise this work is now 6 years old. That's why we're currently trying to secure funding to move to phase 2 of the project. Phase 2 will explore the options for the future of the Lower Otter, including assessment of the costs and impacts of the "Do Nothing" and "Do minimum" options.


The partners in the Lower Otter Restoration Project want to explore a managed realignment option because we know there is more likely to be funding available for this option. However until extensive investigations have been done in phase 2, we won't know whether it is a technically and financially acceptable solution to the Lower Otter's climate change challenges.


The preferred option will need to meet the objectives of the funding partners; for the EA these include creation of intertidal habitat. The Estate, as landowner, has expressed a clear preference for improving the ecological health of the estuary, where this can be done without detriment to access or livelihoods. We will check that stakeholders are clear about our objectives.


Funding has been secured from the Environment Agency for Phase 2, to fully explore options.  


Engineering and environmental consultants CH2M Hill have been appointed to carry out an appraisal of different options.  A ‘long list’ of options will be narrowed down to a ‘short list’ by taking an overview of impacts and whether each option will meet the project objectives. We will choose a preferred option by considering in detail the technical, financial, environmental and social impacts of the short-listed options. Social impacts will include car parking and visitor management.   






04 May 2016















28 September 2016




18 January 2017

Open

2

Prioritising provision of wildlife environment over people's homes and businesses.

Decision made in concert by the EA and CDE that Otter Estuary should provide 14 hectares of compensatory inter tidal habitat for flood works elsewhere reached without justification or public consultation.

CDE is a responsible landowner and wants to help find a solution to secure the future of the Lower Otter Estuary for its tenants and neighbours, as well as the thousands of visitors who enjoy it every year. It also seeks to enhance the natural environment through its activities. However, it has limited funding.


The Environment Agency is a responsible environmental operator, which is legally required to provide compensatory inter-tidal habitat for that lost to coastal squeeze in Natura 2000 sites, such as the Exe Estuary. However, it is difficult to find locations where suitable habitat can be created.


The Environment Agency and EDPHCT have been working together to develop a joint project since 2013, because they recognised that there might be an overlap between their separate objectives. At that time the Environment Agency was also investigating delivery of compensatory habitat for the Exe Estuary at sites around the Exe, in line with Defra guidance.


Sites for habitat creation were identified in the Exe Estuary FCRM Strategy; the Otter Estuary was also identified as a fall-back option if others could not be progressed. The Environment Agency appraised sites on the Clyst and Kenn, but were unable to deliver the habitat required for several reasons.


The Environment Agency could potentially part-fund a climate change adaptation project with CDE if compensatory habitat is part of the solution. The two organisations have agreed to work together on this basis to develop a shared understanding of the problems facing the area with the community, and explore other funding streams. 

04 May 2016

Open

3

Perceived Conflicts of Interest

The influential positions held by a single individual in all three bodies sponsoring the Project (CDE, EA and PHCT) need to be balanced by appropriate levels of  demonstrably independent oversight and assurance by DEFRA

We recognise that where there are potential conflicts of interest steps need to be taken to address these. We acknowledge that John Varley has positions within the Environment Agency, Natural England, CDE and EDPHCT. He has made the required declarations of interest to both the Environment Agency and Natural England. Furthermore he has stepped down from the Lower Otter Restoration Project Board so he will not be part of any formal decision making processes. CDE has instead nominated John Wilding to be their representative on the board. 


The Project has been subject to considerable scrutiny by the Trustees of both CDE and EDPHCT on more than one occasion. Lord Clinton and his family have also considered the proposals in detail before agreeing to proceed.


See 5 for more detail on the Environment Agency approval process.

04 May 2016

Closed

4

Out of date research 

Haycock report, now over six years old, has become stale and needs to be refreshed  to take account of cuurrent projections of future river/tidal flows  

We share this view. The Haycock Report was a good starting point to understand the challenges facing the Lower Otter estuary; however, this work is now 6 years old. That's why we're currently trying to secure funding to move to phase 2 of the project. Phase 2 will explore the options for the future of the Lower Otter, including industry standard hydraulic modelling to take account of current projections of future river and tidal flows.


Funding has been secured from the Environment Agency for Phase 2, to fully explore options.  


04 May 2016





28 September 2016

Open

5

Transparency of Investment Appraisal

There is a need for independent scrutiny of the tangible and intangible benefits and disbenefits of the Project, the Return On Investment over its projected life cycle and the potential betterment accruing to CDE against the detriment accruing to residents and businesses. 

The business case that is currently being prepared will be fully considered by a national panel at the Environment Agency before approval for expenditure is given. Defra can call in any project if it chooses.  The legal requirement for compensatory habitat means that normal cost:benefit analysis is not required, but the cost to the public purse is carefully considered. 


The business case will be scrutinised by the Estate's trustees at the end of phase2, once improved information is available. Any benefits to the Estate are likely to be outweighed by the costs of converting agricultural land into inter-tidal habitat and the need to provide replacement land for tenants; the Project will need to demonstrate that is is within the rules on State Aid.


As the authority with responsibilities for rights of way and highways, Devon County Council will also need to satisfy their own internal governance procedures when agreeing to any proposals.


Planning permission and other consents are subject to public consultation.


The current options appraisal and outline design phase of the project will conclude with an update to the Business Case, which will be submitted to a national panel at the Environment Agency for scrutiny.

04 May 2016

















18 January 2017

Open

6

Transparency of synergies with FAB Link Project

These two projects, both focused on the Otter Estuary, have been developing in parallel since their conception in 2009/10.  They are converging - particularly in respect of proposals that the cable should follow the route of Footpath 12 along the western bank of the estuary adjacent to Granary Lane private properties. CDE will presumably benefit from an income stream in consideration of granting wayleave permissions to Transmission Investments   It is timely for a public statement to be made by the Project on its strategies for exploiting the evident synergies and negotiating a substantial contribution by Transmission Investments to the future maintenance of the Estuary.

We welcome opportunities to work with Transmission Investments / FAB Link and discussions are ongoing. However at this stage no decision has yet been made about the route to be followed by the FAB Link cables; several possible landfall locations and inland routes are being considered. 


Both the Estate and the Environment Agency have had discussions with the developer and they have indicated that they may be able to work with the Lower Otter Restoration Project. However we must recognise that the developer also has powers (including compulsory purchase) to deliver its proposals, so there is limited opportunity to require the substantial contribution that is envisaged. 


FAB link has announced that their preferred route is along the western edge of the River Otter floodplain, along the footpath adjacent to the properties on Granary Lane. FAB link are in discussions with Devon County Council and CDE about raising the footpath above flood levels.  


04 May 2016









28 September 2016

Open

7

Unjustified Project Team Assumptions

Dismissal of various concerns raised at public consultation meetings as "not significant" based on subjective opinion of relevant experts and authorities  rather than on objective evidence obtained from Impact Assessments and Modelling

We're sorry if any stakeholder feels that their concerns have been dismissed. We have listened to the concerns raised so far. To ensure all current and future concerns or suggestions are fully considered, we've committed to maintain a public register of these comments at www.lowerotterrestorationproject.co.uk. 


We'll provide each comment with a response from the project team when it is available. Many comments won't receive an immediate answer because we intend to fully explore them at the appropriate stage of the project. For example, there will be 2 years of evidence gathering in phase 2 of the project, which will include modelling work. 


To date we have sought the view of relevant and qualified professionals. We will continue to do this using the technical expertise available within the Environment Agency and CDE, through partner organisations like Natural England and local authorities, and from external consultants.




Engineering and environmental consultants CH2M Hill have been appointed to carry out an appraisal of different options, outline design of a preferred option and an update to the Business Case for the project.

04 May 2016
















18 January 2017

Open

8

Impact of Accelerated Erosion of the Western Escarpment

Erosion of the Western Escarpment exacerbated by increased river flow and tidal inundation (which would impact adversely on the amenity and value of properties adjoining the estuary) has not been independently assessed or modelled 

We are considering erosion of the Western Escarpment as part of the Lower Otter Restoration Project. 


CDE has commissioned a geological survey of the cliffs to improve our understanding of their existing condition and viulnerability to erosion. We hope the report will be available before our 10 May meeting and we will publish it on www.lowerotterrestorationproject.co.uk.


 The risk of erosion will then be fully considered as part of phase 2 of the project. 


The report is being finalised and will be published on the website shortly.  


The final report has been published on the website.  The report concludes that the principal cause of erosion at the present time is the activity of plant roots and that the impact of any project will depend on the extent to which an improved public footpath at the base of the cliffs is overtopped.


04 May 2016







28 September 2016


18 January 2017

Open

9

Silt Accretion

Accretion of silt converting estuary landscape (from that which has evolved over 200 years into scenically attractive part of designated AONB) to unattractive mudflats and swamp 

We acknowledge that the existing grazing marsh would largely change to mudflat and saltmarsh, particularly south of the road. The project would reinstate more natural conditions and allow more natural evolution over time. The attractiveness or otherwise of different habitats is largely a subjective matter.


Unfortunately whilst the current situation may be attractive to some, it is an artificial one created by the  construction of embankments. If we do nothing, failing embankments and climate change will eventually turn other areas of the estuary into mudflat and saltmarsh, which would be the natural, unmodified habitats at this site and which are of high wildlife value. The Lower Otter Restoration Project would like to explore in phase 2 how we can work with nature to control exactly where this happens so that we can avoid homes, businesses and infrastructure being damaged. 


The East Devon AONB are aware of the project. To date their officers have not expressed any concerns about the impact on the landscape and we will continue to inform them about the progress of the project.

04 May 2016

Open

10

Denial of Access to South Farm Road

Unacceptably high detrimental impacts on value of the public highway and footpath to residents, SME businesses and tourists 

Improving, not diminishing, access for CDE tenants and the public is one of the aims of the Lower Otter Restoration Project. We are particularly committed to maintaining access to South Farm and along South Farm Road if we progress with a managed relignment solution in the Lower Otter Estuary. If we do nothing, climate change is likely to reduce access to highways and footpaths across the area. 


Solutions to retaining access to South Farm will be explored as part of the options appraisal.  

04 May 2016





18 January 2017

Open

11

Cycle Path

Nuisance to residents and disruption to wildlife caused by possible construction of a substantial new cycle path on the western bank of the estuary along the route of Footpath 12

The creation of a cycle path is not one of the aims of the Lower Otter Restoration Project. This idea was initially put forward by a member of the public at a previous public consultation event and has been subsequently repeated. However we recognise that others have significant concerns about this idea and therefore we don't intend to pursue this as part of the project.

04 May 2016

Open

12

Falling Oak Trees.

Erosion of the Western Escarpment causing oak trees to fall threatening the safety of  users of Footpath 12.

Trees on the face of the cliff have been successfully managed by CDE for many years to minimise the risk of harm to footpath users.


We are considering erosion of the Western Escarpment as part of the Lower Otter Restoration Project. CDE has commissioned a geological survey of the cliffs to improve our understanding of their existing condition and vulnerability to erosion. We hope the report will be available before our 10 May meeting and we will make it available on www.lowerotterrestorationproject.co.uk. The risk of erosion will then be fully considered as part of phase 2 of the project. 


The report is being finalised and will be published on the website shortly.  



The final report has been published on the website. The report concludes that the principal cause of erosion at the present time is the activity of plant roots and that the impact of any project will depend on the extent to which an improved public footpath at the base of the cliffs is overtopped.


04 May 2016








28 September 2016




18 January 2017



Open

13

Mosquitoes

Creation of inter- tidal habitat attractive to invading species of mosquitoes threatening the health of local inhabitants 

We recognise mosquitos are a concern for local residents. That's why we have consulted national experts at Public Health England and will continue to work with them. They have visited the site and plan to do so again. They have indicated that risks can be minimised by careful design and management of the inter-tidal habitat. We will follow their recommendations and best practice if the Lower Otter Restoration Project is able to progress. 


The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is starting a project to investigate wetlands and mosquitoes. They have proposed using the Otter marshes as a case study, an offer that we intend to accept.  


04 May 2016





28 September 2016

Open

14

Landfill Sites

Pollution and erosion caused by disturbance of both the two former Landfill Sites 

We also recognise the risks posed by the tip. We have talked to a number of different local sources about the history of the tip and their memories of it. We will complete necessary studies and site investigations into the tip as part of phase 2 of the project. 


The lack of evidence of any past pollution and advice from contaminated land experts at the Environment Agency suggests that the overall risk to the environment is quite low, provided that erosion is controlled. If we do nothing in the Lower Otter Estuary further erosion is likely. If we explore a managed realignment option we'd aim to control any erosion. 


The engineering and environmental consultant's commission includes carrying out investigations into the tip and developing options around how to deal with whatever is found.



04 May 2016








18 January 2017

Open

15

Boating

Disruption to wildlife and nuisance to walkers caused by accessibility of flooded Otter Valley for recreational boating .

There is a right to navigation on all tidal waters. Some canoeing and other recreational boating already takes place on the Otter. However we are not aware of such use during the longer duration flood events that already take place in the Lower Otter. If we progressed a managed realignment solutions, most of the tidally flooded area would be shallow and all would drain at low tide. As a result we would not expect significant levels of usage. The major use by birds will be as a feeding area at low tide, when access by canoes and boats would not be possible.

04 May 2016

Open

16

Felling of trees on tip

Have permissions been obtained? Don't these trees reduce flood flows?

The felling of trees at this site is not directly connected to the Lower Otter Restoration Project. 


A separate 11kV power resilience project led by Western Power is being completed.The power line that supplies the South Farm community is currently at risk from windblown trees. Trees will need to be felled from the power line a width at least equal to 1.5 times the tree height. This exposes the remaining trees to wind blow, hence the Estate's decision to fell all plantation trees. A felling license was approved by the Forestry Commission.


The old tip is only shallowly capped and large trees are not really appropriate on the site. Mature broadleaf trees (eg. oak) along the southern edge will be left where possible. Once the trees have been felled, the site will be left to ‘rewild’ naturally with native shrub and tree species, such as blackthorn. These are less likely to suffer in the longer term from wind blow, and are less likely to threaten the power line. 

 

At present we are in the bird breeding season, and no works will be undertaken. It is hoped to carry out the work after the end of the nesting season, but before winter weather makes flooding more likely. Once the dates when the work will occur are known the Estate will put up appropriate signage and publicise this further.


Tree felling is planned for the second week in February 2017, unless bad weather or flooding prevent it being carried out.


11 May 2016



















18 January 2017


Open

17

Flooding at Otterton and upstream

How will the project affect flooding further upstream?

The project is not intended to reduce flood risk, although one of the outcomes would be to reduce the duration of fluvial flooding of the marshes. However, the project will require a flood risk assessment and the project will only be able to proceed if it can be shown not to increase flood risk.

11 May 2016

Open





18




Car parking and visitor management

Visitor management as a whole is important, not just the South West Coast Path.  Parking on South Farm Road is already sometimes a problem.  If the project hopes to increase visitor numbers to the area then the impact of that, and the facilities available, need to be carefully considered.


The project is currently at the right stage to consider what 'components' might need to be included in different options.  A 'long list' of options was circulated to the members of the Stakeholder Group on 1 February 2017, for discussion with those they represent.  The members of the Group have been asked to return comments and additional items for consideration by 28 February 2017.  The members of the Stakeholder Group have also been invited to a workshop in mid-March to discuss options.  





2 February 2017






Open

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