No immediate work on town's cliffs despite recent falls

Salcombe Hill and Sidmouth

Salcombe Hill, Sidmouth on Sunday, June 13, showing a recent cliff fall, captured by Warren Radmore - Credit: Warren Radmore Aerial Dimensions

No immediate work will be carried out on Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs, which have seen a spate of collapses in recent weeks.

There have been at least four cliff collapses recently, all on land which is owned and managed by East Devon District Council.

While long term work on the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan scheme, which aims to reduce the rate of erosion, is being carried out, the council's cabinet recently voted to pause the current working option to review other possible options now that the scheme is eligible for more government funding.

A spokesman for the authority said that the risk of cliff falls is well signed in this area, so members of the public should adhere to warnings to stay well clear of the cliffs and not access East Beach as it is closed for safety reasons, but that no immediate work was planned to address the recent cliff falls.

They added: “The locations of the recent cliff falls at East Beach/Pennington Point are outside land owned and managed by East Devon District Council. The risk of cliff falls is well signed in this area, so members of the public should adhere to warnings to stay well clear of the cliffs and not access East Beach as it is closed for safety reasons.

“Cliff falls are a natural and unpredictable occurrence along the East Devon coast, this is because the rock from which the cliffs are formed is soft and therefore prone to rock falls and landslides, which can happen at any time, although heavy rainfall can trigger incidences.  We recommend that people enjoy East Devon cliffs from a distance and do not climb or sit directly beneath them. Please always follow the warning signs.

“Work on the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan scheme continues. It aims to reduce the risk of flooding to Sidmouth by maintaining the standard of defences along Sidmouth beach and to reduce the rate of erosion to the cliffs east of the town (and therefore the rate of exposure of the east side of Sidmouth to coastal conditions).

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“The EDDC Cabinet recently voted to pause the current working option to review other possible options now that the scheme is eligible for more government funding. A sub group is currently reviewing the scope for this and will report back at the next BMP advisory group in July. A temporary rock revetment on East Beach and planning permission for this will be explored if the new scheme means a delay to work starting.”

Warren Radmore, from Silverton in Mid Devon, captured a stunning set of aerial images of the cliffs last weekend and explained what was happening.

Mr Radmore told the Herald: "The geology of Salcombe Hill consists of Sidmouth mudstone formation (Mercia mudstone, red) and Upper Greensand (the lighter rock near the top). This area is around 200 to 250 million years old and is nearly the oldest of the Jurassic coast.

"The sandstone is very porous and rain, winter frosts and the sea help to cause it to crumble into the sea at times. There has been some recent rockfalls here during the past year and these can be seen on the photos. I identified another area likely to fall soon as there is a fracture crack high in the cliff.

"When these rocks fall into the sea they cause the red mud to disperse in the sea, and is visible as long red patches drifting in the current. They create some amazing patterns as the move and mix with the sea water. This also provides minerals to the marine life and it part of the circle of life as its a natural process."

When East Devon District Council's cabinet met at the end of March, they voted to place on hold the existing £9 million scheme for the town given that other previously dismissed options may now be affordable.

Councillors agreed that pausing the scheme would enable them to see if a better one can be delivered and that it was important to ensure that the right decision for the future of Sidmouth was taken.

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