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Planning application - New habitats

The need to create intertidal habitat is to compensate for losses identified in the Exe Estuary Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Strategy (the Strategy) (approved in September 2014).  

The Exe Estuary is a Special Protection Area, designated under the European Union (EU) Birds Directive and an internationally-designated Ramsar site. Part of the Exe Estuary is also a Special Area of Conservation designated under the EU Habitats Directive.

Maintaining and improving existing flood defences, will result in the loss of European designated intertidal habitat caused by coastal squeeze (the loss of existing intertidal habitat in front of defences as a result of rising sea levels that drown out the habitat).

This will adversely affect the integrity of the Dawlish Warren Special Area of Conservation and Exe Estuary Special Protection Area and Ramsar site. Under the Habitats Regulations, it is therefore a statutory requirement for the Environment Agency to create habitat to compensate for that lost.

Through the development of the Strategy several potential sites within the Exe Estuary were considered for compensatory habitat creation. From these a short list of sites was created, including on the Rivers Clyst and Kenn. Detailed investigations between 2013 and 2015 concluded that habitat creation at the Clyst and Kenn sites would not be feasible, and that there were no other suitable sites in the Exe Estuary.  

The Otter Estuary was identified as a potential site, suitable for creating compensatory habitat and the principle agreed with Natural England. An agreement between the Environment Agency and the Estate, the landowner, was established as the objectives of the Estate for the Otter estuary aligned wholly with those of the Strategy.

Next - The details of the proposals >

Dawlish Warren

Options considered

The preferred options for LORP were identified through a staged approach, by:

 Developing a wide range of options – a long list of options including do nothing, do minimum and eight other options including creating a freshwater reservoir to a range of restoration options of the Otter floodplain;

 Screening out options considered to be technically, environmentally or economically unviable; and

 Developing the short list of options:

1. Full Scale Restoration;

2. Assisted Natural Recovery;

3. Big and Little Marsh Floodplain Restoration; and

4. Big Marsh South Floodplain Restoration.

The options appraisal concluded that the preferred option for the Scheme was short list Option 3 Big and Little Marsh Floodplain Restoration.


There was a high level of stakeholder consultation, public engagement, professional advice and consultative work throughout the design of the Scheme.

A Stakeholder Group was set up, providing an interface between the project team and interested parties, including community representatives, and was involved in the development of the short list of options.

Project stakeholder group meetings and several public consultations were held locally at community centres and at parish and town council meetings. These were held to highlight the issues, understand stakeholder and public perceptions of the problems, assess their reaction to outline proposals and options, gather information on alternative strategies and to ensure the local community had a chance to help shape the broad form of the project.

Since 2015 an essential component of the Scheme’s communications work has been through this website. This places key documents in the public domain, including the project’s rationale and vision, minutes of the Stakeholder Group meetings, the Risk Register, factsheets and frequently asked questions and proposed timelines. It also advertised key engagement events, with outcomes from public consultation available for viewing.

A long list of options was discussed with specialists from the Environment Agency and the Estate on 7th March 2017, and with the Stakeholder Group on 15th March 2017. With the exception of the Granary Lane residents group, the main stakeholder groups gave their conditional or tentative support for floodplain restoration through managed realignment.

From here, a short list of options was developed, and a public exhibition was held on 5th July 2017.

The exhibition was attended by 144 people and 105 feedback forms were received, which helped inform the outline design of the scheme. 73% of responders were supportive of LORP objectives and 62% were most in favour of the option that has become the preferred option.

Going forward, in addition to the project website, the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust (EDPHCT), the Estate and Environment Agency Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts are being used to provide regular updates about the project.