Sidmouth’s beach management plan is taking ‘too long’, MP warns

This photograph of Pennington Point and East Cliff was taken for the BMP by a drone at lower altitud

This photograph of Pennington Point and East Cliff was taken for the BMP by a drone at lower altitude. If you look carefully you can see circular waves with their centre at the end of the river training wall. This is wave diffraction and it can cause erosion. - Credit: Archant

The £9million solution to Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs is taking ‘too long’, an East Devon MP has warned.

MP Sir Hugo Swire has slammed the district council over the lack of progress being made to bring the town's beach management plan to fruition.

But the council's leader, Ben Ingham, has hit back, saying the scheme is £1.5million short.

He said Sir Hugo should try to secure funding from central government rather than criticise a council which only replaced the Tories three months ago.

Sir Hugo said: "Residents on Cliff Road have witnessed their gardens disappearing inch by inch as the erosion continues. There seems to be no comprehensive plan either for the beach or the Port Royal area.

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"We have been round and round in circles on this for far too long. I would like to see some drive, commitment and initiative coming from the new independent councillors. Sadly, this has not been forthcoming to date.

"Since taking control of the council, the 'independents' appear to have done nothing to address the ongoing problems created by the erosion, which are meant to be addressed by the delayed beach management plan.

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"I welcome the efforts of Cllr Stuart Hughes in passing a motion in April to call on utility companies to contribute towards the £2million needed locally."

The Conservatives lost control of East Devon District Council at the May elections after 45 years in power.

Cllr Ingham, the Independent council leader, said: "This (the development of Sidmouth's beach management plan) has been going on for 20 years.

"For decades the funding for this type of project would have come from the national government, traditionally.

"We have to address this, as we have a funding shortfall of £1.5million.

"It would be very useful if Sir Hugo Swire was able to find that funding from national government - something he has not done for 18 years (since being in office).

"Rather than telling us we aren't doing anything, it would be great if he could help find that money."

Cllr Ingham said a meeting of the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan team is currently being arranged and is imminent.

The scheme will cost £8.9m, with around £3m of funding needing to be provided locally.

The district and county councils have pledged £500,000 each plus. A donation of £100,000 has been given by Sidmouth Town Council and, to date, around £1million of local funding has been found.

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