SIDMOUTH had a ‘lucky’ escape from huge waves and strong winds which battered the coast this week, according to residents who say better sea defences are needed urgently.

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High tides combined with wild weather have seen renewed flooding fears issued for properties on The Esplanade and the eastern town.

Householders have spoken of how their properties shook as waves bashed the promenade – bringing tons of shingle with them.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) last month announced the start of a 12-month project to formulate a £75,000 beach management plan for Sidmouth aimed at improving the town’s coastal defences.

Esplanade resident John Govier, a founding former member of the authority and seafront resident of 60 years, says it must not ‘wait for devastation’.

“We’ve been lucky but you can’t ride on your luck forever. Something has got to be done,” said Mr Govier.

He expressed alarm at the amount of shingle that has vanished and fears more cliff falls, erosion, and that the sea could ‘get in behind’ Alma Bridge.

Mr Govier said high tide on Monday marked the culmination of a month of ‘horrendous’ storms.

“Tremendous waves built up and slammed against the sea wall. Whole waves were going right across the seafront. I’m not talking about spray – it was green water,” he said. “Every time the sea hits the sea wall the house shakes – damage is being done whether you like it or not. The shingle is gone and it’s not likely to come back.

“The council is spending £75,000 on another investigation – a waste of money. We know what the problems are. If they don’t, I suggest they go up to the primary school and ask some of the school kids. They are elementary. The money would be better spent doing something you can see what you’re doing with it.”

Mark Seward, owner of the Hotel Elizabeth and Kingswood and Devoran, said the force of the weather had caused a few problems at the seafront venues before and during a busy Christmas. A glass foyer door was shattered and damaged and guests could not park their cars on the Esplanade because it was too wet and windy.

But Mr Seward said the beach’s rock groynes did their job and worst-held fears were not realised this week.

He warned that slightly different conditions could see flooding of the eastern town and that the River Sid needs better protection, adding: “If there had been a southerly swell and high winds straight up into the town it would have been very difficult and there would have been serious issues.”

An EDDC spokesman said whether Sidmouth escaped because of luck or effective existing sea defences was up for debate, but the storm gates were closed well in advance and sand bags made available.

He added that the study must be done to gather evidence if it is to secure investment from Government and the Environment Agency.

“The £75,000 to be spent on the study would be - quite literally - a drop in the ocean compared with the actual cost of any major works,” said the spokesman.

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