New, inland Alma Bridge for Sidmouth in 2017?

Alma Bridge. Ref shs 8755-10-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Alma Bridge. Ref shs 8755-10-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

Residents look set to have to wait until 2017 for work to start on a permanent fix for Alma Bridge – with an ‘inland’ replacement looking likely.

Sidmouth’s county councillor Stuart Hughes has spoken of how the original intention for a new structure in the bridge’s current position was scuppered by the rapidly eroding coastline.

He added that Devon County Council (DCC) now plans to complete designs of a new bridge during the next 18 months.

Councillor Hughes, Devon’s cabinet member for highways and flood prevention, said: “DCC’s original intention was to replace the bridge in its current position - and funding was made available to do so.

“However, due the environmental status of this sensitive site preventing any protection works being permitted, it is not possible for DCC to undertake the bridge replacement at its current location. Had DCC continued with its original plan, we would now be facing the loss of new bridge in a very short time period.

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“The rapid erosion of Pennington Point that has been witnessed in recent years has required DCC to seek alternative options.

“DCC is working on an inland option, but it should be noted this will require significantly more investment due to the additional ramp structures that will be required.

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“Clearly, there is some ongoing debate over the accuracy of the cliff erosion rates. DCC needs to ascertain the lifespan of the new bridge which will be determined by the erosion rate. At the last steering group meeting, DCC requested for Halcrow to provide further consideration to the erosion rate, particularly at the locality of Pennington Point. DCC is also being proactive by undertaking it own surveys and monitoring of the cliff erosion.

“It has also become apparent the Environment Agency (EA) river training walls upstream of the South West Water pumping station will need to be upgraded to provide coastal defence.

“If DCC goes ahead with any inland option, it is likely the west bridge foundation will interfere with any planned upgrade of the wall. Hence DCC will be working with East Devon District Council and the EA to determine a solution which will not result in abortive costly works to remove any new bridge to allow the wall to be upgraded.

“The current plan is to complete designs of the bridge during the next 18 months with works programmed to commence in 2017. This will be subject to further survey work to determine the rate of cliff erosion.”

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