The closure of a seafront slipway could leave scores of boats stranded in the Exe which would prove ‘catastrophic’ to tourism.

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The warning has come from Ed Hughes, of the Exe Power Boat and Ski Club, after the Mamhead Slipway, at the western end of the Esplanade was closed last week because it could ‘give way at any time’.

A routine inspection by Royal HaskoningDHV divers, commissioned by East Devon District Council, found a small hole in the surface of the slipway, which was thought could signal a larger hole.

It was feared that end of the slipway could collapse and fall by as much as two metres.

Keith Steel, EDDC’s chief engineer, concluded that the slipway would have to be closed immediately.

Mr Hughes said: “For health and safety reasons this is the correct decision. However, it is catastrophic for Exmouth and its boating and tourism, coming at the start of what is probably the busiest month of the year for its use.”

He said the absence of this vital exit had implications for any vessel in difficulties needing to use it: “It is the only place you can launch anything other than smallish boats.

“The real problem is that there are more than 2,000 boats moored on the Exe.

“Certainly not all of them use the Mamhead, and some can use Belshers Slipway, and there are things that can be done so that could be used.”

He also suggested that work on the Imperial Recreation Ground be postponed so the slipway there could be used.

“Boats over 20ft in length would struggle to use Belshers, and they might go to Teignmouth or Lyme Regis instead.”

EDDC leader Paul Diviani, said: “We are meeting this week with our technical consultants to understand what the options are for repairing the slipway, especially in terms of timescales and cost.

“We will also look at other potential water access solutions. Once we have all the information we need, we will decide what action to take.

“We will do all we can to ensure that facilities are in place for Exmouth’s many holidaymakers, especially with such heightened interest in water sports.”

An EDDC spokesman said: “We are holding discussions with the Water Users’ Group next week and Mr Hughes has confirmed he will be attending that meeting.”

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