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The Lower Otter Restoration Project in the media

Otter Estuary project offers ‘multiple benefits’

Preserving beauty of the South West Coast Path

Estate considers valley flooding retreat plan

2 May 2015: Support from the public will be a major help to a project planning big changes to the Otter Estuary, the proposers have said.
Exmouth Journal

28 July 2014: At this time of year, whilst walking along the South West Coast Path, you can’t help but be struck by the beauty of nature.
Western Morning News

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Exmouth Journal

Exmouth Journal

8 September 2010: An east Devon estate may have to make a managed retreat from some land because of future rising water levels, it says.
BBC News

Town’s cricket club would have to find a new home

26 October 2014: Plans to allow the River Otter to reclaim more of its natural flood plain have moved a step forward following public consultations.
Express & Echo

River Otter plan: ‘Low risk’ of pollution

30 November 2015: The risk of ‘toxic’ landfill substances being released by plans to revamp the Otter Estuary is ‘low’, and more surveys will be carried out.
Exmouth Journal

Budleigh Salterton: Meeting to discuss cycle path

6 July 2015: Budleigh Salterton residents facing the prospect of a cycle track being built behind their homes are hopeful their concerns will be listened to.
Exmouth Journal

Otter flooding project: funds to be sought

24 October 2016: A controversial project which could see the Otter Valley flooded may have moved a step closer.
Exmouth Journal

Otter flood project: ‘No significant
cliff impact’

01 November 2016: A report has been published exploring the possible effects of the Lower Otter Restoration Project on cliffs in Budleigh Salterton.
Exmouth Journal

Budleigh residents to have say on Otter project

30 May 2017: Budleigh residents will have a chance to have their say on controversial plans which could see the reintroduction of tidal flooding to the River Otter. Exmouth Journal

'Catastrophic breach' could happen

1 June 2017: A plan to restore the estuary around the River Otter to stop a 'catastrophic breach' of the 200-year-old sea defences is being formulated.
Devon Live

Restoring East Devon river to stop 'catastrophic failure'

8 July 2017: Full scale restoration of the River Otter could cost up to £40million it has been revealed. It is one of four options at a public exhibition. DevonLive

River Otter realignment could cost up to £40m

10 July 2017: The cost of a project to secure the future of the Lower Otter Estuary could rise to as much as £40million, according to new plans. Exmouth Journal

Lower Otter Restoration Project team considering funding options

April 3, 2018: The team behind the Lower Otter Restoration Project remains confident that securing funding for the initiative remains possible, despite the Heritage Lottery Fund declining to offer its support at this stage.

The project is exploring options for a managed realignment of the Lower Otter estuary in the face of climate change and failing 200-year-old sea defences. Existing public access, wildlife habitat and recreational facilities are all under threat. The River Otter meets the sea just east of Budleigh Salterton, and its estuary provides habitat for a variety of rare wading birds and other wildlife, as well as attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year.

Four main options are currently being considered for the project, which were presented at a public exhibition in Budleigh Salterton last year.  The primary objective of the initiative is to attain more sustainable management of the Lower Otter Valley by reconnecting the river to its historical floodplain and creating new inter-tidal habitats of international wildlife significance.

Ensuring sustainable futures for local businesses and recreational facilities such as the cricket club, and protecting public access, are also key priorities.

The major partners in the Lower Otter Restoration Project include Clinton Devon Estates, who own the land around the estuary, the East Devon Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust who manage the existing wildlife reserve, and the Environment Agency, the government body which has responsibility for improving resilience to climate change, flood defence, increasing biodiversity and improving habitats and water quality.

Dr Sam Bridgewater, Head of Biodiversity and Conservation for Clinton Devon Estates, said: “While it is disappointing that the Heritage Lottery Fund has decided not to offer us funding in its latest round, we remain very positive about the project and its potential to address the impacts of climate change on the lower valley while at the same time offering amazing benefits for local communities, wildlife, and the economy. The project area has the potential to be one of the region’s great wetland reserves supporting a strong green economy.

“The project partners are still to consider the option appraisals being put together by engineering and environmental consultants Jacobs (formerly CH2M) to decide which is most environmentally and socially desirable, and financially and technically feasible.

“We expect the cost of the project to be between £8 million and £12 million, depending on the option chosen, and have been exploring a number of potential sources of funding, including the Heritage Lottery Fund. We were seeking £2.4 million from the national HLF fund, but there were 16 projects seeking support from a £10 million pot, and only four successful applications.

“Over the coming months we will continue to explore other funding avenues, including the Environment Agency itself, the cross-Channel Interreg VA programme and the Landfill Communities Fund.

“In the meantime, we hope to be able to select our preferred option in the next few months and present our findings to stakeholders in due course. The project team would like to take this opportunity to thank all those organisations and individuals that supported our bid.”

Favourite option for future shape of Lower Otter estuary revealed

June 7, 2018: Restoration of the floodplain across the Big and Little Marshes has emerged as the favoured option for the team looking at the future of the Lower Otter estuary.

In the face of climate change, rising sea levels and failing sea defences, the Lower Otter Restoration Project is working with local people and organisations to see how the estuary and the downstream part of the River Otter can best be preserved and improved.

The project, led by landowner Clinton Devon Estates and the Environment Agency, considered four options which were presented to the public at an exhibition in Budleigh Salterton last year.

They were:

  1. Full-scale restoration which would involve digging new river channels, removing the old tip and embankments and raising South Farm Road on a bridge.
  2. Assisted natural recovery which would be similar to Option 1, but without creating new channels, allowing the river to adapt naturally.
  3. Big and Little Marsh floodplain restoration, which is similar to Option 2, but would keep most of the existing embankments in place. Breaches would be created in the Little Bank, the Big Bank and the River Otter Embankment, allowing water to flow through with new footbridges ensuring continuity of existing access.
  4. Southern Big Marsh floodplain restoration, which would see no work to the north of South Farm Road and one-way valves preventing the flow of salty water under the road.

Feedback following the exhibition showed that Option 3 was most favoured among the public and was supported by 62 per cent of those who took part. More details on the options and the feedback is available on the project website at

Now, following further extensive surveys in the area, the project team has decided that Option 3 is the best one to take forward.

The project's Dr Sam Bridgewater said: "Option 1 was the most expensive and it was felt that the cost, estimated at £20 million or more, was too high when other suitable alternatives were available.

"Option 2 has been discounted because of uncertainties over how the river would respond to being left to adapt naturally, and Option 4 did not achieve the major aims of the project, which include delivering sustainable management of the estuary and maximising the extent of environmental benefit through habitat creation.

"Our contractors have done extensive computer modelling of the effects of Option 3 and the predictions are very positive: water levels and flood risk would be no higher than they are now, and new intertidal and freshwater habitats would be created.

"This option, which would cost between £8 million and £9 million, allows us to secure and improve access and amenities, including Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club and the South West Coast Path, protect the old municipal tip which lies in the floodplain from erosion, while also providing new benefits for both nature and the public, which are all key aims of the project.

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

A Stakeholder Group meeting was held in East Budleigh last month, chaired by East Devon and Budleigh Salterton councillor Tom Wright.

He said: "It was reassuring to hear at the meeting that a good deal of progress has been made.

"While the national Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was not able to assist with funding in its last round of bids, the HLF did suggest its regional fund may be able to help.

"I know that the partners are as committed as ever to the project and are continuing to discuss funding with the EU and Environment Agency nationally.

"The project is also talking to South West Water about the existing ground-water drinking water abstraction and sewerage outlet pipe in the estuary and has submitted initial proposals to Devon County Council for an embankment with culverts to raise and protect South Farm Road, although detailed technical drawings have not yet been developed.

"It was also reassuring to hear that the surveys have shown nothing untoward in the old landfill tip down there.

"Should the project proceed, a new home would need to be found for the Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club, and they have been very supportive of the proposals.

"The stakeholder group is keeping a wide range of local people and groups up-to-date with the progress of the project and this close communication continues to be very welcome."  

A further public exhibition on the project is expected to be held later in the year.


Older news

Older News

Restoration Project now applying for funding

7 August 2018: The £8-9 million scheme will restore floodplain, create habitats, maintain the footpath and more for the estuary in East Devon.

Agency back £9m scheme to protect defences

6 August 2018: The Environment Agency have said that they are ‘completely committed’ to a £9m scheme to help restore the River Otter.

Agency completely committed to £9million project

7 August 2018: The Environment Agency has announced it is ‘completely committed’ to a £9million project to restore the River Otter.
Exmouth Journal

Funding bid for River Otter project is rejected

24 April 2018: A funding bid for a project that could help avoid a ‘catastrophic breach’ of the sea defences in Budleigh has been rejected.

River project to turn clock back 200 years

14 June 2018: The Lower Otter Restoration Project (LORP) has revealed its latest plans for the estuary as part of proposals to restore it to its historic channels.
Exmouth Journal

Agency committed to £9m River Otter anti-flood scheme

6 August 2018: The Environment Agency says it is "completely committed" to a £9m scheme to help restore the River Otter in Budleigh Salterton.
BBC News

Environment Agency committed to Lower Otter restoration

August 6, 2018: The Environment Agency has today confirmed its commitment to the Lower Otter Restoration Project while applications for funding grants are made.

This assurance means that work to manage the estuary can press ahead and avoid delays on delivering the £8-9 million scheme.

“We are completely committed to the Lower Otter Restoration Project and, together with our partners, want to drive forward our work to create multiple benefits for people and wildlife,” said Ben Johnstone, Environment Agency flood risk manager.

Following public consultation the project team has selected the best option for the Lower Otter, which will include restoring the Big and Little Marsh floodplain. Most of the existing embankments will be kept with breaches to allow water to flow through. It will also create new intertidal and freshwater habitats with no increase in height to current water levels and flood risk.

The partnership scheme will provide new and improved access and amenities including maintaining the South West Coast Path and relocating the Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club. It will also protect the old municipal tip in the flood plain and deliver compensatory habitat for the construction and maintenance of flood defences in the Exe Estuary such as Starcross, Cockwood and Exmouth.

“This is great news from one of the key project partners,” said Dr Sam Bridgewater from the Lower Otter Restoration Project team. “We can now seek the necessary consents and permissions from a variety of authorities, so that we are ready to start work on the ground as soon as possible once funding is confirmed.”

A public exhibition on the Lower Otter Restoration Project will be held later this year - details to follow.

Lower Otter Restoration Project applies to secure alternative home for cricket club

February 18, 2019: Plans for a new home for Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club have been submitted as part of the wider Lower Otter Restoration Project.

The proposals have been drawn up on behalf of landowner Clinton Devon Estates in conjunction with the cricket club.

The planning application, which has been lodged with East Devon District Council, includes a main cricket square, junior pitch, single-storey timber-clad pavilion, and equipment store.

The 3.5-hectare site, currently largely agricultural land, is on the northern edge of the town off the B3178 East Budleigh Road.

The main cricket square would include 13 wickets, one of which would be an artificial surface, and the project has been designed to meet the requirements of both the club and the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board).

Dr Sam Bridgewater, from the Lower Otter Restoration Project, said: "Should the Lower Otter Restoration Project proceed, a new home will need to be found for Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club, a long-term tenant of Clinton Devon Estates.

"The project is exploring ways of managing the Lower Otter estuary in a more sustainable way, which would involve restoring large parts of the land around the mouth of the river to a more natural, wetland environment.

"This would improve the local ecology, and help the Otter Valley respond more naturally to the effects of climate change, such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather.

"Should the project proceed - and we do not yet have all the necessary permissions in place - it would also involve finding a new home for the cricket club.

"We know that a good cricket pitch takes a long time to be ready for play. We are applying for permission for the new ground now so that, if the wider project were to go ahead, the facility would be ready for its new occupants in good time."

Greg Evans, chairman of Budleigh Salterton Cricket Club, said: "Everyone in the area knows that for years we have faced problems with flooding at Ottermouth, so we would very much welcome a solution which would mean we could use our facilities year-round.

"We have worked closely with Clinton Devon Estates on the latest proposals which would provide us with a much more sustainable home, as well as improved facilities for all at our club.

"However, we do understand that these proposals are closely linked to the Lower Otter Restoration Project which will need separate planning permission and other consents further down the line in order to make progress.

"Should everything go to plan with this proposal and the wider Lower Otter Restoration Project, we're looking forward to being able to move in for the start of the 2022 season. This would obviously mark a big change for the cricket club, having played at Ottermouth since the 1930s - but it is one that would give us certainty and a facility that could benefit the local community all year round."