Plans being drawn up to secure future of footpath at risk from cliff erosion

Sidmouth from Salcombe Hill. Ref shs 8478-35-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn

Sidmouth from Salcombe Hill. Ref shs 8478-35-15SH. Picture: Simon Horn - Credit: Archant

Plans are being put in place to secure the future of the South West Coast path at Sidmouth, which is at risk from erosion.

Town and county councillor Stuart Hughes has asked engineers to draw up contingency measures which would see the route being moved further back from the cliff edge.

The footpath was effectively closed off to walkers from the seafront for several months while the replacement Alma Bridge was constructed.

Cllr Hughes says he wants to ‘future-proof’ the footpath against coastal erosion.

He told the Herald: “It may seem that any deterioration in the cliff face that would affect the path is a long way off but we need to be prepared.

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“I’ve asked engineers to start looking at contingencies in case the unforetold happens.

“This link is a lifeline for the town as was illustrated during the delays in completing the new bridge.

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“We know the cliff is receding dramatically at Pennington Point and so it’s only a matter of time before we will need to take action.”

The opening of the new bridge between Sidmouth and the South West Coast Path should have taken place in the spring but was delayed until last month because of snagging issues and the coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier this year, councillor Hughes said he was so concerned about the state of the cliffs at Sidmouth that he funded a survey to assess the rate of erosion out of his locality budget.

He also called on East Devon District Council to take immediate action to reduce the risk of further collapses.

Multi-million pound plans have been made to protect the cliffs and reduce the risk of further collapses, but around £1million of the funding still needs to be found and construction is at least 18 months away.

The preferred Beach Management Scheme aims to reduce the rate of beach and cliff erosion to the east of the River Sid.

Costs for construction of the scheme are estimated at £8.9million.

The South West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (SWRFCC) has agreed to contribute £500,000 to help bridge the effective funding gap, which had stood at £1.5million.

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