Time for action to slow Sidmouth cliff erosion

RECENT dramatic cliff falls at Pennington Point have left the pathway linking Eastern Town with the rest of Sidmouth at risk.

RECENT dramatic cliff falls at Pennington Point have left the pathway linking Eastern Town with the rest of Sidmouth at risk.

Now, after more than a decade of surveys and discussions, the time has come for action, say Cliff Road residents and the Sidmouth Herald.

In 2002 one of four protection schemes was agreed by East Devon District Council, but rejected by English Nature, who felt it important to allow natural erosion to protect the cliff's fauna and flora.

Since its abandonment, there seems to have been little done to protect the cliffs, which have suffered serious erosion through 2008/9.

With the new threat to Hangar Path, Sidmouth County Councillor Stuart Hughes has asked district and county councils to look into ways of diverting it "as a matter of urgency."

He said: "If something isn't done to divert the path it will soon be closed."

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He told Mark Williams, chief executive of EDDC: "It is in the interests of everyone living in Sidmouth and our local economy that Alma Bridge isn't closed."

"If the cliffs are not protected here the whole Port Royal development is at risk," warned Tony Miller of Cliff Road. "The main cause of frustration is nothing is happening."

Residents fear continuing falls will threaten the whole of Sidmouth, not just their homes.

Salcombe Hill Association, chaired by Peter Hand, has been fighting for more than a decade to secure coastal protection works.

Mr Hand said: "The number of walkers has increased dramatically. If the path is closed walkers will have to go down Salcombe Hill and will then go along All Saints Road and carry on.

"There is a great danger the town will lose revenue."

He said residents, who have re-named Pennington Point Pennington Cove, were concerned at how long it was taking to okay emergency works to protect the cliffs and River Sid.

"The only flowers you can see are those that have fallen out of my garden." said Cliff Road resident Martin Macinerny, who has lost 12 metres of land over the years.

"If any district councillors walk across the bridge they walk into a substantially built-up part of Sidmouth, more built up than the equivalent western side."

Residents planned to attend next week's EDDC executive board meeting to hear how its joint discussions with other interested parties, such as South West Water, National Trust, DCC and the Environment Agency, had progressed, but the report has been delayed until April.

A council spokesman said a new statement about the cliffs would be issued "within the next week or so" as soon as these talks, which follow a study by consultants, were complete.

A spokeswoman for South West Water, which has a sewage pumping station based at the River Sid, said it was confident it was protected from coastal erosion "for many years to come.