National Trust reaches out to Sidmouth businesses over beach safety

Cliff fall during FolkWeek at East beach, Sidmouth at 12.06pm on Saturday, August 5. Picture: Alex W

Cliff fall during FolkWeek at East beach, Sidmouth at 12.06pm on Saturday, August 5. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Alex Walton

Sidmouth’s business community has been targeted as part of fresh calls to promote safety around the cliffs at East Beach.

Tony Flux, from the National Trust, spoke to members of the chamber of commerce at a breakfast meeting in a bid to recruit business owners to help raise awareness and reduce the risk of accidents.

He said authorities including the emergency services and district council had met recently to discuss how to improve, maintain and sustain safety in the area.

Mr Flux said: “As we all know, the erosion at East Beach and around Pennington Point has been quite significant and it’s been escalating in recent years, erratically escalating - it’s not been in a nice even curve. That is how most of our coastline behaves.

“We did discuss how we could help improve or maintain or sustain the safety of people on the East Beach, Alma Bridge location. The first thing to say about that is there is plenty of signage at Alma bridge saying this piece of coastline is dangerous, rock falls are quite frequent and do not walk along East Beach at the moment.

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“There are a lot of politics there, the beach management plan is in place, but I know there is a lot of discussion about whether it is the right beach management plan, whether it should be modified, or the shoreline management plan should be modified etc.

“We just want to spread the idea that going along East Beach at the moment is not a good idea. The last thing we want to do is scare people, but equally safety and to cut down the risk of people having incidents - that is really important.”

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District councillor Marianne Rixson said one of the problems with the area’s continuous erosion was its World Heritage status which, meant suggestions were refused by UNESCO.

Cllr Rixson said: “In reality, what we are looking at here is adopting the philosophy that Sidmouth should be looking at abandoning the town eventually, because of the erosion at Pennington Point which is going to erode further back and further back to the [River] Sid and make it more vulnerable.”

Mr Flux argued this was not the case as Sidmouth had valuable infrastructure in the town, on the seafront and promenade and with its hotels.

He said: “As with most seaside towns, your beach is part of your USP [unique selling point]. If you haven’t got a beach, you haven’t got a resort.”

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