New survey to assess rate of erosion of crumbling cliffs in Sidmouth

A fresh survey of crumbling cliffs in Sidmouth is set to gauge how much of the town’s coastline has vanished in the last year.

County councillor Stuart Hughes says he will use his locality budget to pay for the review at Pennington Point.

It follows previous analysis which was carried out at East Beach in March last year.

Multi-million-pound plans are in the pipeline to protect Sidmouth from the sea and to slow cliff erosion.

Councillor Hughes says previous work has shown the coastline is receding by around two metres a year – but a rock revetment scheme could reduce this to 200mm.

He added: “Having spoken to Devon county bridge engineers, I’ve agreed to fund another limited cliff survey in the area around Pennington Point from my locality budget, which will establish how much erosion has taken place since the previous survey which I also funded and was carried out over a longer distance.”

East Devon District Council (EDDC) revealed last month that ‘bigger and better’ sea defences are back on the table thanks to a funding boost.

This means offshore rock islands once again being considered to protect the town.

The authority’s cabinet is set to decide on whether to stick with the option already in the pipeline or to explore a costlier version.

Alterations to the plans would mean construction work on any scheme could take around four years to start.

The current preferred option for Sidmouth is to spend £9million on a new rock groyne on East Beach and raising the height of the seafront splash wall.

Modifications to the River Sid training wall and shingle replenishment and recycling would also be carried out.

If given the green light, work on this scheme could start within two years.

Cllr Hughes has long called for temporary rock armouring to be placed at the base of Pennington Point.

He said of any potential delay to a permanent scheme: “This means that the Hangar Path leading to the new Alma Bridge could well be compromised in a shortened timescale with the cliff receding so fast.

“The bridge was opened last October and it had been calculated that, with the high usage of coastal footpath walkers, it would pay for itself in four years.

“We believe that the bridge and coast path users bring approximately £15million a year to the local economy and have been included in the projection of further funding being available for the project.

“Clearly, if the bridge is compromised then the funding available would reduce, and a recent survey suggested that the cliff is receding by approximately two metres a year, but with the scheme [a temporary rock revetment]in place this could reduce to 200mm.”

He added: “This was first called for in 2012 by the county council and if had been allowed by Natural England and the Environment Agency, this would have meant a new bridge could have gone ahead on the site of the old bridge.

“It is of course within the gift of East Devon [District Council] to enact emergency powers where they’d carry out the work and then reclaim funding.”

A recommendation has been made by the Sidmouth and East Beach Management Plan Project Advisory Group to EDDC’s cabinet that, should the longer-term project be chosen, a temporary structure should placed at the base of cliffs at Pennington Point.

‘Bigger and better’ Sidmouth sea defences back on table – with rock islands among options

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