Flood prevention and Sidmouth east should be developed together says MP


- Credit: Archant

Flood prevention measures and the redevelopment of eastern town should be considered as one big project.

Those were the words of East Devon MP Hugo Swire when he addressed a breakfast meeting of the Sidmouth Business Café at the Woodlands Hotel last Friday.

Concerns were raised about the immediate need for action to tackle erosion of Pennington Point’s crumbling cliffs and the safety of Alma Bridge.

Mr Swire said the areas around the Ham, Alma Bridge and the Drill Hall were in dire need of redevelopment.

But, he said, this and the issues around the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan, which will seek to find a long-term plan to protect the town’s coastline, should be tackled and looked at as a whole.

“I think it is critical we redo that part of the town to bring in more people,” said Mr Swire.

“There is no point in coming up with an architectural plan before you fix the issue as a whole.

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“We should have an open discussion of what people would like in the town.

“It should be looked at as one major development of the area.”

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Matt Booth said: “We do not have that much time at all - if we get a heavy storm, that could flood the town; the leadership is not there.”

Others also argued something needed to be done sooner rather than later as one resident claimed it was ‘a matter of time’ before there was another big storm that would send water ‘smashing through’ Alma Bridge and flooding Sidmouth.

Fears were also voiced about a severe flood causing millions of pounds worth of damage to the area’s homes, leaving long-term issues with people being unable to get house insurance.

Mr Swire said he had invited Natural England’s new chief executive to come and look at Sidmouth in hope something could be done sooner about installing flood prevention measures.

During the meeting, Mr Swire also raised the idea of developing a wrap-around car park, weaved between starter flats, at the Ham.

“There is a really big issue,” he said.

“I do not think people will come to Sidmouth in any great number if you have to park outside the town.”

Mr Swire also voiced his support about the proposed new development at Knowle.

He said that, although it was not ideal, it would bring jobs and people to the town.

“When it is up and running, people will be pleased with the result,” he added.

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