Blow for Sidmouth anti-cliff erosion bid

NATURAL England experts have objected to a bid by residents to slow the decline of Sidmouth’s crumbling coastline – because the scheme will halt rapid erosion.

Cliff Road homeowners hope to reach an agreement with the body over their proposals for a �900,000 rock revetment along the base of cliffs near Pennington Point.

A group of residents, turned activists, spent �10,000 on a planning application they think will prevent catastrophic flooding of the town, protect Alma Bridge and the coastal footpath, and save their properties from toppling into the sea.

But Natural England says the proposed rock revetment is in “direct conflict” with a shoreline management plan for the area.

Experts say in a report: “This stretch is one of the most productive sources of rare Triassic fossil vertebrates and new finds are regularly made in the cliff falls.

“The revetment will prevent erosion, halting natural processes which maintain fresh sections and provide a renewed supply of fallen fossil bearing rocks for study.

“The construction, in our view, will permanently change the landscape character of this area from one of naturalness and wilderness to one where a man-made structure dominates.”

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They also claim the retaining wall will have “a permanent major adverse visual impact”.

Residents were due meet with Natural England representatives and a district council officer this week to discuss objections, but talks were delayed until September.

A decision by East Devon District Council (EDDC) on the fate of the 240metre granite wall – which has garnered widespread public support - is expected in October or November.

Cliff Road campaigner Paul Griew said: “We’ll discuss possible options, find out what the objections and key issues are, and see if we can find some common ground.

“They want natural erosion to continue at 10cm a year, and so do we.

“Since the rock islands were built the rate has been 20 to 30 times greater.

“Our plans are the only option we’ve yet heard that will actually achieve our objectives. We’re only too pleased to listen to other ideas.

“If we can’t find an agreement we’ll press ahead with the planning application. At least we’ll know we tried to reach and agreement.”

National Trust representatives also told the district council in an objection: “Developments might impede natural processes or obscure exposed geology.”