Opportunity from Adversity
Rapidly turning into an unmissable showcase festival of arts and crafts, the environment, and the outdoors in August is Celebrate Start Bay. But the roots of the event come from local business turning adversity, in the shape of coastal change, into opportunity.
An aerial view of the ‘Slapton Line’ in Start Bay shows the problem - the narrow strip of land squeezed between ‘the Ley and the sea’ with the even thinner sliver of grey tarmac running along the top.
In early 2001, a ’25 year event’, an easterly storm on top of Spring tide, brought the full power of the sea to bear on a beach which was already short of shingle ripping away five metres of foreshore and a huge section of road. The ‘Line’ was out of action for three months, with everyone faced with a much longer journey.
The road was eventually fully repaired at a cost of half a million pounds by moving a section a further 20 metres in land. At the same time the Slapton Line Partnership formed from local authorities, landowners and others started to work with the community to help plan for the future.
A study was commissioned to provide answers. The beach, what geologists call a ‘shingle barrier’, formed from flint deposits 20 miles offshore and washed ashore during a series of historic sea-level changes, would continue to move inland. The road’s days were numbered.
150 years ago it was a rough track shored up by hand and using bundles of willows which were found when it was repaired. But today the foundations and tarmac needed to cope with ‘38 tonners’ costs hundreds of thousands to repair.
The study said that, as property and people weren’t at risk, there would be no national funding available for a multi-million pound sea defence stretching the length of the 2 mile road section. And some were adamant that an unsightly rock and concrete defence was the wrong solution for this unique bit of coastline which would become more exposed as the shingle moved and sea levels rose.
The remaining options were evaluated and ‘managed realignment’ was recommended to preserve the road as long as possible by moving the most vulnerable sections of the road inland. By planning for the long term loss (thought to be 25-45 years away) the impact could be reduced. Through a series of public consultations a list of ‘adaptation’ activities in three broad areas was agreed – building business resilience, communication, and contingency planning.
A series of workshops with businesses resulted in a number of good ideas being taken forward. Several looked at strengthening the area as a tourism ‘destination’ by making more of the distinctive features and the history and heritage of the area.
The line of thought was that in the long term more visitors would stay for a while longer rather than just taking the coast road to drive through. Also that by focussing more on what else the area had to offer including outdoor activities, and the natural environment, it would encourage out-of-season visits.
An additional six interpretation boards, an audio tour and a mobile information trailer are part of the mix of new initiatives in place.
Another suggestion was to run an annual event showcasing the area and what it had to offer. That’s how Celebrate Start Bay got started.
Meanwhile the nuts and bolts of dealing with the detailed issues have also being worked through. Contingency plans have been made and tested, an ‘advisory one-way’ alternative route has been agreed with local community representatives and passing bays on the single track sections have been improved ahead of schedule.
The Partnership has also put in a lot of time listening. Over the past year they’ve surveyed 600 people, they’ve had 65 businesses participate in the various events, and around 900 attend the annual Celebrate Start Bay event. Parish Councils have requested update meetings and an advisory group, open to the public, meets every six months.
Project manager for the Slapton Line Partnership Alan Denbigh says “I don’t expect everyone to slap us on the back and agree that this is the way forward, but I do think we are doing the best and most sustainable thing in the long term and by talking about it as much as possible and getting initiatives going such as Celebrate Start Bay it helps people plan for the future.”
Saturday 21st August - Celebrate Start Bay 2010 at Slapton Ley Field Centre and Village Hall: The annual free celebration of ‘all that is good’ about the Start Bay area showcases local arts & crafts, food and drink, and the great outdoors! Visited by over 900 people last year - a good time was had by all!
This year, there will be stalls in the village hall full of information and shopping opportunities; plus a full programme of outdoor and indoor activities & entertainment, talks and workshops. Pottery, pizza oven, weaving, singing, art workshop, nature trail, rocky shore tank discovery, kayaking on the Ley, falconry ....etc.
See www.slaptonline.org for more information
or call 0845 388 9147 or email email@example.com.
First Published August 2010 By The Dart