'Breakwater lagoon could protect Sidmouth for all time'

PUBLISHED: 14:42 01 March 2016 | UPDATED: 14:52 01 March 2016

East of the River Sid the battered cliffs and its beach littered with rocks at low tide this week. Ref shs 08-16SH 6022. Picture: Simon Horn

East of the River Sid the battered cliffs and its beach littered with rocks at low tide this week. Ref shs 08-16SH 6022. Picture: Simon Horn

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Sidmothian John Govier says erosion at east beach is the worst he has ever seen

The eastern beach littered with rocks at low tide this week. Ref shs 08-16SH 6016. Picture: Simon HornThe eastern beach littered with rocks at low tide this week. Ref shs 08-16SH 6016. Picture: Simon Horn

Severe storms this winter have caused the worst cliff erosion the town has ever seen, according to a Sidmothian and former fisherman.

Tonnes more rock fell this week – and John Govier fears that Pennington Point will be unrecognisable if decision-makers do not act soon.

The former district councillor believes the best option is to create a new breakwater and form a lagoon to ‘protect our seafront for all time’.

“The cliffs have changed literally on a day-to-day basis and you can’t help feeling sad at what is happening,” said Mr Govier, of The Esplanade.

The eastern beach littered with rocks at low tide this week shown in an ultra-wide view. Ref shs 08-16SH 6012. Picture: Simon HornThe eastern beach littered with rocks at low tide this week shown in an ultra-wide view. Ref shs 08-16SH 6012. Picture: Simon Horn

“As soon as you lose the shingle, whether on the seafront or along beside the cliffs, then at high water during every storm more cliffs are undermined and the backwash of the waves prevents any shingle from coming back.”

He thinks much of the lost shingle is buried under the sand and the only way it could return would be in a severe easterly wind and storm.

“So what can be done?” asked the 76-year-old. “As far as the cliffs are concerned – nothing. It is beyond my comprehension that nothing has been done on [what was] Pennington Point.

“It’s all very well that East Devon District Council (EDDC) has commissioned experts to draw up plans, but if they don’t get a move on, they will just about have to start again because everything has changed so much. I think that, long-term, I would like to see a breakwater built at a suitable height from the outside end of the present offshore breakwater right across the seafront, nearly as far as the end of the sewer pipe. This would protect our seafront for all time and hopefully Pennington Point as well.

“It would be a tremendous asset. It would have a lagoon inside it that would be perfect for swimming and all sorts of sea activities.”

Sidmouth’s current sea defences were completed in 1995. Mr Govier said the engineers behind the scheme had favoured having a breakwater right across the seafront – but this was rejected because it would block the view of the horizon. He thinks residents and tourists have now come to terms with the appearance of the sea defences and the role they play in protecting the town.

EDDC is currently reviewing the defences in a beach management plan for Sidmouth that is due to be completed in the autumn. How long it takes to implement will depend on any scheme which is chosen.

Potential options include removing the rock groynes from the main beach and raising the height of the wall along The Esplanade. Other possibilities are the construction of new groynes off the east beach, a replacement promenade at Jacob’s Ladder and a continuation of the shingle recycling which took place last year.

The council said earlier this month that there is no funding available for immediate intervention.

“I would keep the breakwaters. I wouldn’t mess around with them,” Mr Govier added.

“One has to give a little bit of praise where it’s due – they’ve worked very well since they were built.

“They’ve protected the whole western end of the seafront, but the scheme never went far enough. If you’re going to do a job, you’ve got to do it properly.”

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