‘Delays cost beach its political punch’

Start of the work to restore the shingle on Sidmouth beach. Ref shs 0654-02-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

Start of the work to restore the shingle on Sidmouth beach. Ref shs 0654-02-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

The homeowners worst affected by Sidmouth’s seafront erosion fear they have lost the political leverage for action because of a 10-month delay in drawing up a blueprint for defences.

Cliff Road residents, whose gardens continue to crumble into the sea, can only sit patiently while a beach management plan (BMP) for the town is drawn up.

But with a general election in May, they are now unable to hold any political party to its promise.

The residents are calling for a short-term solution to the erosion, but this month learned that work to restore shingle to the town’s beaches would not extend to Pennington Point.

Cliff Road Action Group leader Paul Griew said: “Progress with the BMP is ridiculously slow. We currently have a Conservative MP and a member of government who could help.

“If we had the BMP before May we could have used the election to put pressure on the political parties to do something about it. We have lost that now.”

The £75,000 BMP is being drawn up by East Devon District Council (EDDC).

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An initial delay pushed its publication back to April and it is now not due until September.

Its recommendations are not expected to be enforced before 2017.

Cliff Road residents expect to get a draft copy of the BMP in the next fortnight, ahead of a steering group meeting on February 24.

Meanwhile, EDDC is moving a ‘winter blanket’ of shingle from the west beach to the main beach – but a lack of surplus stones has seen the eastern end lose out.

Cliff Road resident Martin McInerney said: “There used to be five metres of shingle at the foot of these cliffs. We don’t expect to stop the erosion completely, but there’s no doubt that the rate has sped up considerably since those rock groynes were installed.”

He added that if regular shingle recycling had been done as planned the cost would have been spread out - instead it has cost a £100,000 lump sum from the Environment Agency.

An EDDC spokesman said: “Our BMP is currently under way and will consider the best options for reducing the east cliff erosion rate and coastal protection for Sidmouth.

“Baseline reports on the coastal processes, the coastal defences, the natural environment and economics will be discussed at a steering group meeting in February.

“We are waiting for the results and recommendations of the BMP before deciding what actions to take. Future work is dependent on funding from the Environment Agency.”

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