New, inland structure to replace Sidmouth’s Alma Bridge?

Alma Bridge. Ref shs 8760-10-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Alma Bridge. Ref shs 8760-10-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

Preliminary plans for a new structure to cross the River Sid – at a location inland from the existing Alma Bridge – have been drawn up by Devon County Council (DCC).

However, the authority says that ‘interim works’ at crumbling Pennington Point are needed before it commits taxpayers’ cash to the project.

DCC is now planning to consult with town and district councils, South West Water (SWW) and the Environment Agency in the coming weeks.

It is committed to maintaining the crossing at Alma Bridge for ‘as long as possible, provided costs do not become unaffordable and as long as it is safe for people to use’.

DCC will work with East Devon District Council (EDDC) and the National Trust to ensure that people are discouraged from accessing the beach to the east at Salcombe.

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Weekly inspections of the existing temporary bridge are carried out to ensure it is safe to cross, says DCC. If engineers are concerned with the safety to the public, the bridge will be closed and pedestrians told to use the alternative footbridge at Mill Street - 350 metres upstream.

The potential location of the proposed new bridge would be upstream of SWW’s pumping station, around 20 metres inland of Alma Bridge.

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This would be limited by topography and the location of SWW services.

DCC will continue to work with the district council to look at temporary protection at Pennington Point, as well as any longer-term scheme afforded by the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan (BMP) to ensure that ‘any new structure at this location has sufficient lifespan to make it viable’.

Sidmouth/Sidford representative Councillor Stuart Hughes, cabinet member for flood prevention, said: “The county council remains committed to maintaining a link to the coast path, but replacing Alma Bridge in its current position is not viable. We can only realistically consider a new bridge if interim measures are introduced to slow the rate of erosion of east cliff until the beach management plan is implemented and we’ll continue to work closely with EDDC to this end.

“We need any use of taxpayers’ money to provide a good return over the long-term, so we would need Natural England, World Heritage, and EDDC to agree to interim works at Pennington Point to give us the assurance that any investment in a new bridge will be protected for at least 50 years. This would enable us to move forward with plans for a new bridge upstream.”

Councillor Andrew Moulding, chairman of the BMP steering group, said: “EDDC recognises that Alma Bridge is a valuable asset to Sidmouth and we will continue to liaise with DCC and to assist them in our role as coastal protection authority to implement interim measures required.”

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