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‘Safety group’ proposed to crack down on walkers under dangerous Sidmouth cliffs

PUBLISHED: 17:00 11 August 2017

Cliff fall during FolkWeek at East beach, Sidmouth at 12.06pm on Saturday, August 5. Picture: Alex Walton

Cliff fall during FolkWeek at East beach, Sidmouth at 12.06pm on Saturday, August 5. Picture: Alex Walton

Alex Walton

A ‘safety group’ to crack down on the number of people venturing under Sidmouth’s dangerous crumbling cliffs could be set up.

Sidmouth folk week. Ref shs 32 17TI 1112. Picture: Terry IfeSidmouth folk week. Ref shs 32 17TI 1112. Picture: Terry Ife

The move has been spearheaded by the National Trust, which will be contacting the coastguard, East Devon District Council and police to propose a such a group is ‘urgently established’.

It comes after another big cliff fall at the weekend - where yet more rubble collapsed onto the beach.

The Herald this week raised concerns over the number of people ignoring the warning signs on East Beach, putting their lives on the line in doing so.

Worried readers have been highlighting the issue by sending in scores of pictures of people dicing with death on the dangerous stretch of shoreline.

These included a trio playing music and filming themselves at the foot if a recent landslide on Saturday.

There have been several major cliff falls this year - one of which in February saw a resident’s garden shed and the land it was on plummet down onto the beach. In May, an estimated 1,000 tons of dirt and soil crashed to the bottom of the cliffs.

Guy Russell, senior coxswain at Sidmouth Lifeboat, said: “It is a constant worry for the coastguard. I see people there all the time.

“The signs are there for a reason - cliffs everywhere should be respected, but these ones in particular as they are very dangerous.

“Someone will end up getting killed on the beach and this is the only way people will start thinking about it more.”

A National Trust spokeswoman said: “We are very concerned that people continue to use East Beach and ignore safety signs warning of the unstable cliffs.

“Whilst the trust does not own the land where users access Sidmouth’s East Beach or control the access way to it, we will be contacting the coastguard, district council and police to propose a safety group is urgently established to investigate whether any other steps can be taken to prevent and discourage beachgoers putting themselves in danger.

“We would very strongly urge people to observe these safety signs and not go onto East Beach under any circumstances.”

A district council spokeswoman said it does not own East Beach, but maintains steps at Alma Bridge in case of emergency, as people becoming stranded by the tide had been an issue in the past.

She added that experience had shown the only effective way to close a beach was through a police presence. This decision would need to be taken by the landowner who would need to consider how to enforce it.

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