The Environment Agency (EA) responded to the community’s recent rejection of their revised plan for the flooding of South Efford Marsh (SEM) with a renewed drive to push ahead with the plan, in a probable collaboration with the Devon Wildlife Trust as managing partner. The plan has now been elaborated in slightly more detail and can be read by clicking here - SEM – EA Summary of points051110 . The area which the EA hopes to flood is depicted in the figure below, which shows the planned flood depth with salt water, and in the diagram showing habitat type to be created and the proposed hide location (click here) proposed Habitat Creation .
The ACA’s committee has unanimously rejected these more detailed plans because much remains unclear. The plans do not address our original objections about a) the uncertain, wider environmental outcomes of the project and b) the absurdity of destroying a well established BAP habitat (freshwater grazing marsh) to create a new one (salt marsh), over what might be a very extended period of time, solely in order to meet a national EA target for new salt marsh creation. Furthermore, the proposed freshwater ‘scrapes’ will be susceptible to ‘poaching’ by grazing cattle, unless fenced securely, and could become stagnant and unattractive to wildlife without a source of flowing fresh water.
Gary Streeter MP and others are also very concerned about the waste of public funds at a time of cut-backs which will have widespread repercussions, some of which will include other environmental projects with, arguably, greater importance and urgency e.g. flood protection.
However, in a private meeting, Aveton Gifford Parish Council (in whose area the marsh lies) has now decided to welcome the latest scheme as a potentially attractive public amenity within their parish. Whether this represents an acceptable level of public support for endorsement of the project is a moot point! The PC did add the following caveats, as summarised below in italics :-
The proposal to proceed has a number of riders attached and was passed unanimously.
1) The aspect and consideration of Flood Risk by EA’s Development Control should include consultation with those Bridge End residents close to South Efford Marsh at road level and lower. We understand that there would be no increase in flood risk by flooding South Efford Marsh; and that particularly the most affected local resident should approve any additional work through walls and moats to help stabilise the risk to his property.
2) That the EA look at the current sewage arrangements for South Efford House. There is a licence for permitted discharge. The location of the current septic tank should be assessed. The need for different and renewed arrangements, bearing in mind the Planning Application for expansion should be reviewed.
3) The Parish Council, through their appointed representatives (say two people) wish to be included in the forward planning and decision making process to bring local knowledge to bear, and to add a liaison point for the project.
4) The Parish Council to be informed and approve the lease that is created with managing partners.
We can only hope that the Parish Council’s confidence in the scheme will be justified and that we shall not all be left with a lifeless sea of mud, or worse, for the foreseeable future.