‘Repay our faith’ plea from cliff top residents

Coastal erosion action call

CAMPAIGNERS have appealed for authorities to ‘repay the faith’ put in them by cliff-top residents over “horrifying” erosion of Sidmouth’s eastern coastline.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) this week pledged �27,000 towards a beach management plan it is hoped will lead to a solution for crumbling Pennington Point.

However, �80,000 is needed for consultants to carry out the probe, council cabinet members heard on Wednesday.

EDDC has seen requests for �15,000 and �10,000 - from county and town councils respectively - rejected. Both bodies say they would rather contribute towards an actual scheme rather than preparatory work.

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Cliff Road residents, who fear for their homes, withdrew their own planning application for a rock revetment last year in the hope various councils and organisations would pull together to address the issue.

Paul Griew, who leads the Cliff Road Action Group, welcomed EDDC’s cash pledge but told the Herald after talks: “I hope the good will gets turned into action.”

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It is hoped action will not only save homes but safeguard Sidmouth from flooding and protect Alma Bridge and the coastal footpath.

Kate Little, head of planning at EDDC, told cabinet members a beach management plan was imperative in order to gain Defra funding for an eventual scheme.

“We are standing alone at the moment,” she said on the funding situation, and warned “the project could have to wait another year”.

Councillor Chris Wale said: “We can’t afford to take a back step. It’s been a long time and we’re taking the right steps. I shall be battling the town council once again.”

Cllr Andrew Moulding, who leads the working party set up to address the issue, added: “I’m amazed neither town or county council saw fit to support us in this venture.

“We’ll need to go to Defra to get money together for the bid. We’ll be �25,000 short. This could mean a future delay.”

Cllr Stuart Hughes, a county councillor and town council chairman, told members: “The district council is the authority for coastal protection, so the plan side of things is firmly at the feet of the district council.”

The meeting heard the deterioration of eastern cliffs, since rock islands were put in place in 1995, was “horrifying”.

An EDDC spokesperson told the Herald as it went to press yesterday that the authority would formulate a bid to net the rest of the �80,000 needed from Defra.

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