THE FUTURE of Slapton Line — the vulnerable shingle ridge and road alongside Slapton Ley — and the communities it links, is one step nearer to longer term protection.

A new body met last Friday (May 26) at Stokenham, aimed at solving the decades long issue of the A379 being at constant risk of being flooded, cutting off towns and villages.

There has been an impasse for many years with the long-held wish by residents for extensive long term sea defences conflicting with the policies and views of Natural England and conservationists protecting the ley which is the largest natural freshwater lake in the South West, at 1.5miles long and a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Residents have been particularly alarmed since 2017 when their fears came true and the road, which runs along a shingle ridge between Torcross towards Strete was flooded. It was also rebuilt after erosion in the early 2000s. They have been pressing for the planning authorities to approve effective beach defences to give them confidence they will not be cut off from emergency services and from the other services and other communities.

However, Natural England has always opposed any such plans, preferring a policy of so-called ‘managed retreat’—which means preserving the consequences of the natural action of the weather and sea on the beach separating Start Bay from the inland freshwater lake which is Slapton Ley, with minimal intervention.

The new coalition comprises local councils (Frogmore and Sherford parish, Devon county, and Slapton parish), and MP Anthony Mangnall (member for Totnes and South Devon). The aim is to work towards a strategy giving residents confidence their wishes were prioritised.

Mr Mangnall said: ‘Slapton Line is a crucial strategic road for the people and the communities and business that rely on it to get to work and as a vital link for the emergency services. Residents and businesses need to have security for their futures and confidence that the road will be safe along term.’

The new committee heard from a coastal protection company specialising in coastal protection indicating a preferred a version of wire mesh cellular construction containing rocks. A working example is at Beesands. Mr Mangnall said: ‘I think the way forward is to draw up a planning application, using the preferred sea defences we have heard about today and submit to Teignbridge Council with a strong case to persuade Natural England and the planners.’ He said any long term coastal protection needed large scale funding and the (multi-agency) Slapton Line Partnership also needed to change its constitution to unlocking planning decisions, rather than accept change.