Fears for Sidmouth seafront: ‘Do something before it’s too late’

Cliffs east of the river mouth this week. Ref shs 06-16SH 4002. Picture: Simon Horn

Cliffs east of the river mouth this week. Ref shs 06-16SH 4002. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

Devon’s flooding boss has expressed fears that Sidmouth’s sewage system could grind to a halt if the town’s coastal erosion cannot be brought under control.

After the recent wild weather, Councillor Stuart Hughes fears that the Ham’s sewage pumping station could be ‘overwhelmed’ and said it needs protecting - and now, writes Stephen Sumner.

East Devon’s MP Hugo Swire also says any necessary work will have his ‘full support’.

However, East Devon District Council (EDDC), which is leading a long-term plan to protect the beach, told the Herald that there is no government funding available for immediate intervention.

“If the sewage pumping station was affected, Sidmouth would close down,” said Cllr Hughes. “Where would all the sewage go? How can you have a holiday resort without a sewage system? We need to do something before it’s too late.”

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South West Water (SWW) has played down any concerns.

EDDC is drawing up a beach management plan (BMP) for the town and a draft of it is expected in the autumn. However, the implementation of any protection scheme could take years.

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Mr Swire said: “This is a prime example of why it is absolutely vital that we deal with the problem of cliff erosion at Pennington Point and improve Sidmouth’s flood defences. This has been an ongoing issue since I was first elected as MP in 2001, and I am pleased that progress is finally being made with the publication of the BMP. However, it is likely that the BMP will not be implemented for another five years, so interim measures might be needed. Any necessary measure will, of course, have my full support. Generally speaking, I believe that any solution which addresses the problem of cliff erosion and the Alma Bridge needs to be part of a wider redevelopment that includes Port Royal and the Ham.”

Sewage is pumped from The Ham up to the treatment works at Sidford and final effluent is discharged out to sea.

A spokeswoman for SWW said the ‘substantial reinforced concrete’ pumping station is not considered to be at ‘significant or immediate risk’ of structural damage by the sea. It has an overflow it can operate in the event of it becoming overwhelmed by surface water.

An EDDC spokeswoman said there is currently no government funding available for interim measures to protect the seafront while the BMP is being drafted and funding would need to be found elsewhere. She added that a repair project to stabilise the training wall and retaining wall at Port Royal is under way.

“The timeframe for work to start on the main scheme depends on the preferred option coming out of the BMP, but we are looking to complete the funding application to the Government as soon as practicable,” said the spokeswoman.

Among potential protection works being considered in the BMP are options to remove rock groynes from the main beach and raise the height of the sea wall. Other pssibilities are the construction of new groynes off the east beach, a replacement promenade at Jacob’s Ladder and a continuation of shingle recycling.

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