Vital support for plans to replace Sidmouth’s Alma Bridge

PUBLISHED: 12:42 14 July 2016

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Hugo Swire MP and Natural England chairman Andrew Sells

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Hugo Swire MP and Natural England chairman Andrew Sells

Archant

Plans for an upstream replacement for Alma Bridge have won the support of an environment quango.

Councillors Andrew Moulding, Stuart Hughes and Philip Skinner with Natural England chairman Andrew Sells and Hugo Swire MPCouncillors Andrew Moulding, Stuart Hughes and Philip Skinner with Natural England chairman Andrew Sells and Hugo Swire MP

Natural England has previously been blamed by some for blocking sea defences to protect Sidmouth’s cliffs - but a site visit from its chairman, Andrew Sells, was enough to convince him that the new structure could be acceptable.

His backing comes after Sidmouth Town Council agreed in principle to put £10,000 - £20,000 towards the new bridge, which could also help protect the eastern town from flooding.

County councillor Stuart Hughes is now pressing for Alma Bridge’s replacement to be included in a six-year funding scheme – and it could be ‘shovel-ready’ within 12 months. The plan is for a ramp from the pumping station to the new bridge, which will slope upwards towards the eastern bank of the Sid to join a re-routed Hanger Path. The plans also include a wall on the river bank to protect the town from flooding. Cllr Hughes said the new bridge would have a lifespan of 50 - 100 years.

Mr Sells visited the site last Friday with district and county councillors and East Devon MP Hugo Swire. Natural England has previously blocked plans for rock armouring to protect the bridge due to the environmental impact.

But after being talked through the proposals, Mr Sells said: “I think I can safely say Natural England would welcome that.”

Town councillors also supported the project and agreed in principle to help fund it when they met last week.

Cllr Hughes was set to meet with the South West Regional Flood and Coastal Committee yesterday (Thursday) to get the new structure in a six-year funding scheme. He told the Herald: “As soon as the design has been completed I can then request that the scheme is brought forward. We could be ready to go within the next 12 - 18 months – several years ahead of the beach management scheme, which I don’t think we will see work start on for at least five or six years.”


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