Sidmouth residents stunned at 'no action' report on cliff erosion

NEWS that district councillors will be told there is no justification for emergency works or coastal protection at Sidmouth s Pennington Point has stunned and shocked cliff-top residents.

NEWS that district councillors will be told there is no justification for emergency works or coastal protection at Sidmouth's Pennington Point has "stunned and shocked" cliff-top residents.

A report by Royal Haskoning on the impact of cliff erosion on the coastline, Alma Bridge and South West Water's pumping station that there is no justification for coastal protection works, Peter Hand, chairman of Salcombe Hill Association said: "What planet do these so called experts live on?

"We feel very let down and betrayed by EDDC's handling of the matter. I have spoken to several members of the association. We were stunned and shocked to read in the council's press release today (Wednesday) that experts advise work is not justified at Sid Estuary Pennington Point.

"No progress seems to have been made by the council in moving the SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) eastwards along the beach.

"In 2005 we were advised that this was being treated with urgency and given to StreetScene for action in order to overcome the ill-founded concerns of Natural England."

He said the association would ask to speak at the EDDC executive meeting on Wednesday, April 1 (April Fool's Day) when councillors will consider the independent consultants' report, which says that, despite recent major cliff falls, there is no justification for coastal protection works or emergency works at Pennington Point.

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The report has the backing of other agencies with a vested interest in the site, including the Environment Agency, Devon County Council; which is responsible for Alma Bridge, South West Water and Natural England.

They have endorsed a leaflet produced by Royal Haskoning and entitled Pennington Point: Cliff Erosion Review.

The National Trust, which owns most of the coastline between Sidmouth and Branscombe, has not been forthcoming, says EDDC.

The leaflet says a study last September ascertained no emergency works could be justified on either economic or environmental grounds.

Mark Reilly, head of StreetScene said: "Overall cliff erosion that has occurred since 2002 is less than that predicted in a 2001report. Some recent cliff falls have occurred at Pennington Point and further falls are likely to occur this winter, but there are no assets immediately at risk, which might lead to an economic justification for undertaking emergency work.

"If at any future time it becomes evident that continued erosion of the cliffs at Pennington Point would put Eastern Town as risk of flooding, this would justify consideration of emergency works."

County Councillor Stuart Hughes said: "I will continue to fight for a substantial coastal protection scheme that will protect Sidmouth's coastline in the future."

He said DCC had recently spent several thousand pounds underpinning a suspect pier at Alma Bridge, re-pointing it and treating the woodwork.

"They don't want to see their asset go into the sea," said Mr Hughes, who wants the bridge listed to preserve it.