Take a trip in town and think on it
As there is much justified concern about the future of Sidmouth, it would pay to look at the Sidmouth of the present and take a short trip about the town.
Start at Connaught Gardens. From the coach park pedestrians have to use steps to get down to cross the road and more steps to climb up to the gardens. Not the safest of manoeuvres. There have been plans for a bridge to be built here for years, and for years it has come up against official opposition. My letter of June 2008 listed some of these unrealistic objections, which are probably encapsulated in a councillors comment that it is a “bridge too far”!
Continue down the hill to the start of the cliff walkway. A pleasant stroll to Jacob’s Ladder is now possible but official opposition delayed this facility for years and it is mainly due to one (non-official) man’s tenacity that this asset can be enjoyed.
A bit further along are the Victorian shelters. Finally, something positive has been achieved here. The unsightly and ill-positioned phone box has been removed (who on earth allowed it to be put there in the first place?), and the end result is a great improvement, apart from the glaringly white panels which rather spoil the overall effect. An open invitation for local Banksys?
The original lamp-posts had to be replaced and in their stead are functional ones from the value shelf. Towards the other end, wreathed in blue iron, is one of the dullest buildings to be found on the seafront. Betjeman’s soul must be in pain.
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Across the road is the lifeboat station. Most places would have an adjacent slipway, coupled with a jetty where vessels (Stuart Line?) could land. Not Sidmouth. Access to the sea is from the far end of The Esplanade! And now Stuart Line no longer come to Sidmouth.
Then to the Ham area. Don’t even think about what is liable to happen here.
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Finally on to the running sore of what was once Pennington Point. Has no-one in the council got the courage and vision to take charge and halt the continual erosion which threatens the Alma Bridge; the houses upon the cliff-top and the possibility of part of the town being engulfed? Or is the problem too great to be considered?
Then, move to some of the housing developments. Parsons Yard is going to be turned into housing; at the top of town are several new estates going up. When all these are occupied the traffic congestion in the town will be quite interesting.
And what effect will a near-by 12-acre site have on Sidmouth? Euphemistically called an “employment site”; in reality, it will translate as an industrial site (or should that be spelt sight?). Think on it!
Woolbrook Road, Sidmouth