Alma Bridge survey latest

ALMA BRIDGE could be under threat in less than five years if Salcombe Cliffs keep falling down.

ALMA BRIDGE could be under threat in less than five years if Salcombe Cliffs keep falling down.

Parts have deteriorated since maintenance work in July 2007, with a section of the upstream western pier now undermined by shifting river-bed material.

Underpinning of this pier will stop further erosion and, says a report after last week's inspection for Devon County Council, it may be appropriate to consider cliff stabilisation.

It concludes: "The bridge has not been damaged by the recent rock falls, but as the cliff continues to retreat the structure and users of it will be at increasing risk.

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"The structure may be under threat in less than five years but this is only based on observations and feedback from local fishermen."

Sidmouth County Councillor Stuart Hughes called for the inspection and said: "To say the bridge may be under threat in less than five years is an understatement.

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"The bridge is under threat now. All we need is a severe south easterly and this could happen during the course of this winter."

As there is no data currently available to arrive at "meaningful assumptions" about the long-term risk to the bridge it will be added to the council's defect monitoring programme, although this is usually intended for concrete and steel structures when minor defects are measured.

"Reference points will be set up to establish the rate of progress of the cliff face towards the structure with measurements taken every six months or at incidence of rock falls," says the report.

"Consideration to cliff stabilisation may also be appropriate but responsibility issues will need to be resolved."

The majority of brickwork of the piers is good although 20 percent would benefit from re-pointing next year together with re-treating steelwork with a new protective coating to prevent further corrosion. Parapets and steps are in good condition.

Mr Hughes said he was pleased underpinning of the pier would take place.

"Hopefully this work will be carried out sooner rather than later as at present it is a weak spot."

Welcoming its reference to cliff stabilisation, he said: "This will add further weight to East Devon's call to the Environment Agency and others to allow a scheme to be carried out under emergency measures and this is something I shall now also push for at county."

*The latest fall at Pennington Point took place on Wednesday, September 24. A barrier of warning signs began going up on Friday.

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