Sidmouth seafront resident of 60 years speaks out on Port Royal development ideas

PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 June 2018 | UPDATED: 12:21 05 June 2018

John Govier. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 1867-38-12AW

John Govier. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 1867-38-12AW


A seafront resident of more than 60 years has spoken out about the future of the Port Royal area and Sidmouth’s sea defences.

The Sidmouth Lifeboat station, sailing club and Drill Hall at Port RoyalThe Sidmouth Lifeboat station, sailing club and Drill Hall at Port Royal

John Govier, of The Esplanade, has shared with the Herald his views in a special two-part feature.

“Much has been spoken and written about the Port Royal redevelopment and new sea defences – with little agreement with many of the views,” writes Mr Govier.

“Firstly, I would like to say that I agree with the view expressed by our MP Sir Hugo Swire on the Port Royal area and that the whole area does need special attention and proper planning for the future – not ‘piecemeal’ planning or a botch-up. There is an opportunity to plan something really good here which Sidmouth will be proud of in the future. But I know it will not be easy - there are many different bodies, clubs and councils that have a direct interest in Port Royal.”

Mr Govier says there was a huge list of organisations and people who had invested interest in the is area, including Devon County Council, East Devon District Council, Sidmouth Town Council, South West Water, the electricity board which has a substation beside the shelters, English Heritage, the Environment Agency, The Crown Estate, Sidmouth Sailing Club, Sidmouth Gig Club, Sidmouth Lifeboat, the Port Royal Boat Owners Association, the lessees of the fishermen’s sheds and the Jurassic Coast and the National Trust’s Enterprise Neptune.

Sidmouth, Port Royal. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0970-03-12AWSidmouth, Port Royal. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 0970-03-12AW

He added: “This is probably not a complete list, but it does give you an idea of the numbers of ‘interested bodies’ in the Port Royal Area.”

Mr Govier said there were a number of buildings and subjects he wanted to comment on, the first being the idea to build flats at Port Royal, adding: “Has it even occurred to those who advocate this, just how impractical this is?

“You can’t even walk across the seafront to Port Royal in a gale without getting a wave over your head.

“What would you do? Would you issue every resident with a wetsuit and a snorkel – this is not the sensible area to build residential property.”

The front of the drill hall has been called untidy and a mess by resident Dave O'Connor.The front of the drill hall has been called untidy and a mess by resident Dave O'Connor.

The second issue was with traffic. Mr Govier said: “It will not surprise readers if I tell you that some of the coaches that come to Sidmouth are over 60ft long.

“I have spoken to many of the drivers and they all say the same thing – turning around on the east end of the seafront is a nightmare.

“Without illegally reversing down York Street beside the Sidmouth Lifeboat Station, or in Fore Street, beside the Royal York and Faulkner Hotel, it is very difficult and dangerous to turn and need I mention the size of some of the lorries these days. So a good means of vehicle turning needs to be planned.

The third issue was mentioned as the Drill Hall.

Mr Govier said: “Some say it is an iconic building. I say it is a derelict eyesore which ruins our seafront. Well, we are all entitled to our opinions.

“I live on the seafront and have done for most of my lifetime. All of us who own property on the seafront do their level best to look after and maintain it. And we are proud of Sidmouth’s unique seafront – but it is not easy, nor is it cheap.

“The Port Royal end of the seafront has always been the ‘untidy’ end. Maybe interesting in past years with the boats we used to keep there, and the fishing, boating and sailing, but with the increase erosion of the cliffs and the loss of shingle and the Alma Bridge, the whole area is not worthy of Sidmouth’s beautiful seafront.”

The fourth and final issue raised by Mr Govier was Alma Bridge.

He saiid: “It is good to see that a new bridge is planned upstream of the present bridge. It seems well-planned and is reassuring to all Sidmouth residents who live east of the river, and to those walkers who use the coastal path, that this is being built. The main priority at the present time is to try to do something to improve our sea defences and to hopefully reduce the cliff erosion. This must be done before Port Royal can be planned properly.”

Read more from Mr Govier next week.

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