Call for ‘emergency action’ after latest Sidmouth cliff fall

Cliff falls at East Beach, Sidmouth Picture: Philippa Davies

Cliff falls at East Beach, Sidmouth Picture: Philippa Davies - Credit: Picture: Philippa Davies

Lives could be put at risk if action is not taken quickly to prevent further cliff collapses in Sidmouth, according to a local councillor.

Large pieces of the cliff at Pennington Point came down in two separate falls on the morning of Monday, March 2.

One local resident who came out to look at the debris said: "I was here yesterday looking at the sea and the cliffs and it all seemed fine, and now this morning, a massive rock fall of several hundred tonnes."

Multi-million pound plans have been made to protect the cliffs and reduce the risk of further collapses, but around £1million of the funding still needs to be found and construction is at least two years away.

District councillor Stuart Hughes, who represents the Sidmouth Sidford ward, has called for immediate steps to be taken.

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He said: "Some emergency action needs to be taken at Pennington Point due to the risk to life that this is starting to pose.

"If you lose the steps then people cannot get safe access on and off the beach so there is the potential for lives to be at risk.

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"East Devon need to take some emergency action and to do something to protect the cliffs. This is a moving feast.

"We have had a run of storms with waves hitting the toe of the cliffs, the rain at the top, and because it is a vertical cliff face, it doesn't get the chance to recover."

The preferred Beach Management Scheme aims to reduce the rate of beach and cliff erosion to the east of the River Sid.

The plans would not stop cliff falls but would reduce the erosion from the toe of the cliffs, which would reduce the erosion rates.

Costs for construction of the scheme are estimated at £8.9million.

The South West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (SWRFCC) has agreed to contribute £500,000 to help bridge the effective funding gap, which had stood at £1.5million.

But with £1million still to be found, and further storms forecast in the coming weeks, Cllr Hughes wants action to shore up the cliffs and perhaps fill in the cave that was revealed after the battering of the cliffs by Storm Dennis.

East Devon District Council has repeated its warning to take care around all cliffs and not to sit or walk near them.

Relating to the East Beach fall, a spokesperson said: "Please note that East beach in Sidmouth is closed and the steps are for emergency use only.

"Work on the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan project is ongoing.

"The project is currently at the Outline Business Case stage, which involves collating the history of coastal protection in Sidmouth, scheme details, costs, benefits and forms in a bid, which will be submitted for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management Grant in Aid (FCERMGiA)."

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