“Solution – not sticking plaster” Sidmouth cliff plea

Residents react to crumbling coastline latest

CLIFF Road residents, who fear for their properties, have welcomed news a beach management plan is under consideration but said: “Sidmouth needs a comprehensive solution – not a sticking plaster.”

Homeowners turned activists have spent �10,000 on their own planning application to slow rapid erosion of the town’s eastern cliffs as their gardens recede by 13 feet a year. They say the proposed retaining wall will protect �6million of properties, save Alma Bridge and nearby footpaths, and prevent town flooding.

The Herald reported last week how East Devon District Council (EDDC), the authority that will decide the fate of residents’ revetment plans, revealed it’s working on a scheme for the whole of Sidmouth seafront.

A Natural England expert said this project may result in proposals for a rock groyne to protect Pennington Point – a move that could blow residents’ home grown plans out of the water - and wouldn’t stop erosion of gardens.

“The last thing Sidmouth needs now is an inadequately researched half measure that might exacerbate the existing problems,” said a Cliff Road Action Group (CRAG) spokesperson.

Residents said they were buoyed by “recognition” from EDDC and Natural England “that there, indeed, is a problem to address”.

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They added they are “open to constructive new proposals” that protect the town, its economy and people’s homes.

However, they maintain that rapid erosion of Pennington Point and its surrounding coastline isn’t a natural process, but, in fact a product of man-made rock islands off the beach. “CRAG has always made it clear it accepts natural erosion,” said the spokesperson. “What must be stopped is the accelerated rate of erosion...that threatens not just gardens, but the houses of tax-paying residents and the security of the town.

“None of these problems would have arisen – and would not be the subject of debate now – had the overall impact of the original rock island scheme on the east cliff been properly researched and reflected in the design of the scheme.

“CRAG will continue to actively promote its own, more comprehensive, planning application.”

EDDC said details of its plan are still to be finalised.