End of deckchairs on Sidmouth seafront?

THE quintessentially English sight of deckchairs on Sidmouth seafront could become a thing of the past.

That’s the fear of the man who’s been responsible for 400 of the iconic folding seats on the Esplanade for a quarter of a century.

Tom Griffiths has decided to put his feet up and retire after being in business on the beach for more than 30 years.

And the 63-year-old is concerned that a council move may see the deckchair vanish from the town’s biggest tourist attraction.

“It will be a complete disaster for Sidmouth seafront,” said Tom.

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

Tom has run a deckchair concession since 1986 along with eleven of the 25 beach huts at Jacob’s Ladder, for which his franchise has ended.

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East Devon District Council (EDDC) is set to take management of all the beach huts back in-house - tendering only for the deckchair concession.

Tom feels a deckchair business on its own “is just not financially viable”.

“I’m not sure whether there will be deckchairs on Sidmouth seafront any more,” he said.

“If the council takes the beach huts back, there isn’t a business to be had in just the chairs. There is no way anyone can make a living on them alone.”

Some of Tom’s customers are fourth and third generations of families that have been visiting the seafront from as far back as 1933. “I’ve retired. It’s the end of my franchise,” he said.

“After 30 odd years on Sidmouth beach, of course it’s a sad moment, but at the same time I’m looking forward to getting back to doing some sailing.”

An EDDC spokesperson said: “Now Mr Griffiths’ franchise of the beach huts has come to an end, the council will take the management of them back in- house.

“The beach huts remain very popular and there is currently a long waiting list, allocations will take place in the usual way.

“The council would also like to continue the provision of deckchairs on the seafront and a new invitation to tender for the deckchair concession will go out after Christmas.”