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Points from Chris Howsam, designer and concerned Teignmouth resident

Updated: Jan 15

Network Rail plan to destroy 1.7k of beautiful beach (owned by the Crown).


There is growing resistance from local residents and growing evidence that a more environmentally sensitive plan could be implemented that would preserve the beach and Isambard Kingdom Brunel's iconic and historic sea wall, as well as the vital railway line.


These points were raised by Chris Howsam, designer and concerned Teignmouth resident:


The proposal is going to replace a beautiful part of our coastline with boulders and concrete. The proposal is soul less, hard and uncompromising. The only concession to humans is a pathway for them along between the cliff and the railway, corralled between high anti climb/rockfall proof safety fencing. The loss of a majestic beach cannot be compensated for by a caged walkway with a seaward view of trains standing in a passing place or acres of track and ballast.

When the heart dies the host dies. The beach is the heart of Teignmouth. How can Teignmouth survive if its heart is torn out and cast aside?

Network has to fight two battles, one with the sea and one with the cliffs. Network could apply innovative and proven sea management techniques such as offshore reefs and track side wave screens to reduce the risk from the sea. The sea facing wall can be refaced and raised without stealing such a large part of the beach. Why has this not been proposed? The cliffs could be prevented from intruding onto the rail track in the same way rock falls and snow avalanches are prevented from blocking alpine roads and rail tracks. There are potentially up to eight redundant tunnel boring machines available after the Crossrail tunnel project. Have these been considered for an alternative shortcut tunnel plan coming inland, directly to Teignmouth from Dawlish?


Network have made no attempt to describe the scale of the proposal in terms that human beings can understand. For example, I can describe the area enclosed by the encroachment into the sea as follows. I calculate the area lost from the present beach as 116474m2 (28.8 acres). Considering that a typical football field is 1.32acres, the land is therefore equivalent to 22 football fields. This is equivalent to an area in Teignmouth town enclosing the town from St Michaels Church, along the promenade to the end of the Point Car park then back along the river to the East Dock wall, then inland to the roundabout at Exeter Road/Orchard Gardens (Fiveways) and straight across back to St. Michaels Church. That is half of the town centre. The proposals should be presented in clear and transparent ways the public can relate to.

My measurements say that the movement of the proposed wall/boulder facing will extend outwards by 80m. That will expose hundreds of thousands of tons of sand from the shelter of the bay behind Hole Head. The prevailing long shore drift is Southwards and old photos of this coast show a reduction in sand over the years. It is likely that this sand will end up moving down to Teignmouth, disrupt the port and adversely affect its long term viability. I am unaware of any undertaking by Network to underwrite the perpetual costs of maintaining the long term navigability of the River Teign and its port by maintaining (dredging) a commercial shipping channel?

The current railway wall is only in contact with the sea for a few hours each day. Under the new proposal the wall may extend beyond low water mark and be in permanent contact with the sea, thus being exposed to deeper water and greater wave action. The mitigation for this will be even greater boulder facing than currently proposed, thus entirely disposing of every part of the beach. In this respect the 80m calculated may be conservative over time.

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Network Rail are threatening to cover over and destroy our beach and Brunel’s wall with a vast swathes of concrete.  We want Network Rail to come up with an environmentally sympathetic plan.  We want them to do the right thing.  Join us in the campaign to save Teignmouth and Holcombe beaches and save Brunel's sea wall. 

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