Calls to bring back Sidmouth's iconic deckchairs

PUBLISHED: 06:30 12 June 2017 | UPDATED: 08:29 14 June 2017

Deck chairs along Sidmouth seafront. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Deck chairs along Sidmouth seafront. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

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Sidmouth's iconic summer deckchairs will not return to the seafront unless a new operator can be found.

Deck chairs along Sidmouth seafront. Picture: Alex Walton PhotographyDeck chairs along Sidmouth seafront. Picture: Alex Walton Photography

Hundreds of the folding seats - a seasonal favourite and quintessentially English sight on The Esplanade - have been notable by their absence this year.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) says the most recent operator of the service had ended its concession agreement with the authority - and a new one needs to be found.

Tom Griffiths, 69, ran 
the concession - as well as 11 of the 25 beach huts at Jacob’s Ladder - for 30 years until his retirement in 2011. He fears the deckchairs could vanish for good from the town’s biggest tourist attraction.

Mr Griffiths told the Herald: “It will be a complete disaster for Sidmouth seafront if we lose the deckchairs.

“If you have good weather you can make plenty of money, but if you have bad weather you need to have a back-up to help you survive.

“Even if people don’t sit in them, deckchairs bring the whole place alive.”

Mr Griffiths said he loved the job and had started doing it when he was a young student - when there were 3,500 chairs to put out every day.

He ran the concession himself from 1986.

“My favourite part was talking to the people – you get such a variety on Sidmouth seafront,” said Mr Griffiths.

“I would encourage anyone to do it – the job is extremely hard, but you do not get anything for nothing. You have to work at it.

“One of the secrets is living in Sidmouth and knowing the weather forecast.”

Sidmouth councillor Cathy Gardner said: “Deckchairs are a symbol of the traditional English seaside resort and should be provided in Sidmouth every year.

“If the service is done by the council [town or district] at no cost to council tax payers, that should be enough.”

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “Following the decision of the previous operator to end their concession agreement, the council will shortly be remarketing the deckchair concession for Sidmouth and hopes to have a new operator in place as soon as possible.”

Anyone interested in running the deckchairs concession can email property@eastdevon.gov.uk for more information.

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