Budleigh cliffs could become the next Pennington Point disaster

PUBLISHED: 10:00 11 January 2016

Budleigh Salterton beach and cliffs

Budleigh Salterton beach and cliffs

Archant

The level of erosion of the cliffs on the town’s beach could become ‘Budleigh’s Pennington Point’, mayor Courtney Richards has warned.

Concerns have been raised recently that the rate of pebbles disappearing from the town’s iconic beach could affect how quickly the cliffs at Littleham Cove are eroded.

Sandstone, which used to be protected by the beach’s pebble barrier, has been left vulnerable to the elements, especially when there high tides.

Town mayor Courtney Richards is concerned that the cliffs could end up resembling Sidmouth’s Pennington Point, which has eroded dramatically over recent years.

Clifftop residents at Sidmouth have been left fearing for the properties - with many losing huge chunks of their gardens.

Councillor Richards said: “The west to east movement of the pebbles has now been going on so long that there are virtually no pebbles on the beach from Sherbrook Chine westwards and there are more pebbles than ever near the river mouth at the east.

“This movement of pebbles now means that whenever there is any sort of rough sea, the waves are washing against the foot of the cliffs eroding the soft sandstone which, in turn, is leading to increasingly frequent cliff falls.

“For many years, the coastal path past the golf course was safe, but only a few years ago, it had to be re-routed inland due to cliff falls.

“There is now a likelihood that the path will have to be moved again in the near future, due to the rapid loss of the supporting cliffs.

“My understanding is that because these cliffs are part of the Jurassic Coast, any form of protective action would not be allowed and, therefore, it would appear that little can be done to stop this erosion.

“I hope that in future years this area will not become Budleigh’s Pennington Point.”

In a statement, a spokesman for East Devon District Council said: “The council is the coastal protection authority for East Devon and, in this capacity, we lead on coastal erosion risk management in East Devon, working closely with our colleagues at the Environment Agency. We have powers to undertake works to reduce erosion and reduce sea flooding, but no duty to do so.

“EDDC is part of South Devon and Dorset Coastal Advisory Group (SDADCAG), which produced the South Devon and Dorset Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) 2.

“The SMP policy for the urban areas of Budleigh is to hold the line and prevent further erosion and sea flooding, in order to protect residents and property in this area.

“To the west of Budleigh Salterton around to Littleham Cove, the SMP policy is no active intervention and to allow the cliffs to erode naturally, as there are fewer benefits to investing in coastal defences in this area and erosion of the coastline is part of the character of the World Heritage Site.”

Sam Scriven, acting earth science manager for the Jurassic Coast Trust, said he was ‘reticent’ to compare the town’s beach with what is happening at Pennington Point.

He said: “Right the way along the coast, we’re seeing the same thing, but on that stretch of coast there is unlikely to be a need to defend it.

“Pennington Point is different because there are properties in danger from flooding, making it a different case.

“The erosion exposes fossils and would make the coastline look even more beautiful, but when the cliffs are under threat, we do need to take measures.”

● See page 16 for an article by former Budleigh Salterton resident Christine Shoji, who undertook a geomorphologic survey on the beach in the 1970s.


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