Teignbridge Planning Committee have today agreed unanimously to approve Network Rails design for the new sea wall phase 1. The section takes in 360 metres of track between Kennaway Tunnel and Colanade Viaduct with work expected to begin in May.
During a well attended meeting, representatives from Newtwork Rail and local objectors were allowed to voice support and concerns to the committee before Councillors made their own speeches and vote.
A speech by a local Dawlish Councillor was greeted with loud applause from the public gallery after tabling a motion to defer the vote while other options could be explored. However this motion was rejected by a vote of 10-6 by the committee.
Other speeches were less well received with the public listening to speeches about how the NR experts were the only voice that Teignbridge should listen to. It was noted that not one member of the committee made any reference to consulting the population of Dawlish. They were all clearly aware of the concerns but some obviously had fears that a rejection of the plans would see the railway moved away from Dawlish to an inland route. Some of the facts and arguments were sadly poorly researched with many attending feeling the decision had been made a long time before the meeting.
The meeting became quite heated at one stage with accusations of political influence being aired forcing the Chairman to halt proceedings.
The final vote though was unanimous support for the plans in their current form with both the residents and visitors of Dawlish having no further contribution to the process.
We must all now put aside thoughts of alternative solutions or designs and support Network rail as they work towards providing resilience and securing the railway to the South west for the next 100 years.
Network Rail have said the following,
“We know the local community in Dawlish feel strongly about the future of the sea wall and the resilience of the railway in their town. We’d like to thank them for their input and engagement with us so far.
“Whilst developing our plans we have listened to the views put forward by the community. Our plan for the new sea wall will minimise its impact on Dawlish sea front whilst providing the appropriate level of protection from extreme weather for the railway and the town.
“We are pleased that Teignbridge District Council have approved the new sea wall and thank them for their thorough reviews of our plans throughout the process to date.
“The new sea wall will protect this vital rail artery to the south west for the next 100 years. World leading engineers have designed these plans, having considered hundreds of other options, and it will ensure the railway line is more resilient to extreme weather and rising sea levels for generations to come.
“We now looking forward to commencing work on site at the end of May. However, work will stop during the peak summer season so it does not affect the main tourism season. We will also continue to update and engage with the local community as we continue with this vital work.”
We will be publishing the video from the planning meeting later on so please feel free to watch in full.