A small cliff fall above a walkway in Sidmouth at the weekend has prompted the council to close the footpath because of safety concerns.
East Devon District Council (EDDC) said the cliff fall near Jacob’s Ladder was reported on Sunday morning (March 27), and inspectors identified a further risk to public safety.
Sidmouth residents are urged to follow the footpath closure because of the ‘ongoing risk’ of further falls, and be aware of the tides while accessing Jacob’s Ladder via the beach while the footway is off limits.
Access between Jacob’s Ladder and Sidmouth town continues to be possible at all times via Peak Hill Road, EDDC said.
Councillor Geoff Jung, EDDC portfolio holder for coast, country and environment, said: “The cliffs above the walkway are inspected every single year by specialists.
“Securing bolts, many metres long, wire restraining mess, and other safety measures are used to ensure people walking on the walkway will be safe.
“It’s very unfortunate that we have had to close this footway, but safety is paramount.”
EDDC said the walkway was closed after the emergency services attended the scene on Sunday morning after police alerted the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA).
The MCA inspected the site, found no one was injured, and sealed off the path ‘due to the risk of potential further falls’.
EDDC said it was ‘likely’ the cliff fall was the result of recent wet weather followed by an ‘unseasonably’ warm spell.
An EDDC spokesperson said: “The small cliff fall took place on Sunday morning. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency were made aware of this by the police, and attended site confirming that there were no injuries and sealed off the walkway due to the risk of potential further falls.
“EDDC’s engineering geologist, who supervises the annual rope access inspections and is familiar with this section of cliff, attended site yesterday (Monday, March 28) to assess the residual risk and has identified an area immediately adjacent to the recent cliff fall as being at risk of falling.
“Initial assessments have concluded that the fall is the result of a failure from an internal joint within the cliff that wasn’t exposed and therefore visible, and so this fall couldn’t have been predicted or prevented through scaling during the annual inspections which last took place on Tuesday, 8 March 2022.”
The spokesperson added: “It is likely that the recent wet winter combined with the last week of unseasonably hot, dry conditions have weakened this joint through a combination of shrinkage and expansion of the rock material, causing the fall.”
EDDC said the footpath would remain closed until a thorough inspection of the site was carried out, and any loose rubble or debris was removed.
EDDC said: “Given the continued risk to the public, the council has taken the decision to keep the undercliff walkway closed until a rope access contractor can be arranged to attend site, undertake a tactile inspection of the area surrounding the recent fall and remove any material that continues to present a risk.
“The council’s engineering team is in the process of making these arrangements and will provide updates as this develops.”