Residents told they must pay for repairs to the badly damaged wall at Parade Terrace on Capstone after authorities refuse to take responsibility.
DESPERATE Ilfracombe residents have appealed to David Cameron after the sea wall behind their homes was destroyed and they were told they would have to repair it themselves.
A huge wave smashed a gaping hole in the wall at the back of Parade Terrace on Capstone walk during the winter storms on February 2 but now a row has broken out over who should fix it.
The Environment Agency, Devon County Council and North Devon Council all claim the wall is not their responsibility, but the owners of the eight flats affected say it is far beyond their means to deal with the damage.
Plea to PM
They have written to the Prime Minister calling on him to help resolve the problem – and before the next round of winter storms adds to the damage.
Geoff King who owns one of the properties has written to Mr Cameron and enclosed copies of 1992 property deeds he says suggest the former National Rivers Authority was responsible for maintaining the wall – something its successor the Environment Agency denies.
In his letter he says ‘We are hardworking people who were planning on retiring this year to Ilfracombe, but we have had to delay this until repairs can be made. You have previously said that people affected by the floods would qualify for Government assistance but this appears not to be the case.
‘Our local MP Nick Harvey has been very active on our behalf and expressed his personal view that private citizens should not be responsible for the local sea defences’.
Mr King told the North Devon Gazette they feared the damage could spread further if nothing is resolved before the next storms: “The sea wall was there before the properties were built so how can they assume we are responsible? The insurance company tell us it is not our wall to insure.
“This better be sorted by the time the storms come around otherwise there won’t be one flat inundated, it will be dozens.”
Heather and Phil Estall, who also own one of the flats, said the wall was built before the properties, which went up in 1898.
“That was built in 1841 by public subscription long before any parish councils and a public footpath ran along there in those days,” said Heather.
“Nobody will admit to owning it or do anything about it.”
A costly repair
Deva and Gill Situnyake also own one of the flats: “It’s urgent because we have the summer but once the weather gets bad and the storms come in this initial damage will get far worse,” said Deva.
“It needs an overarching body to take some sort of responsibility for immediate repair and ongoing maintenance. I have looked into the cost of repair and it’s something like £30,000 per square metre for sea defences – who is going to fund that?
“If the wall does go all the properties will be at risk.”
North Devon Council Head of Property and Technical Services, Diana Hill said: “As householders have already been advised, the wall is not the responsibility of North Devon Council, but is instead believed to belong to the householders, with the structure likely to have been built to protect their properties.”
Devon County Council said the wall was not its responsibility.
Paul Gainey from the Environment Agency told the Gazette the EA did not own or have any responsibility to repair or maintain the sea wall at Parade Terrace, which was not part of the sea defence scheme built by the South West Water Authority and the National Rivers Authority between 1978 and 1990.
“The wall provides erosion protection, but does not reduce the risk of flooding from the sea. We do not retain the powers or attract funding to repair or maintain assets that provide erosion protection - this generally resides with the local authority or landowner,” he said.
“We intend to undertake a visual inspection of the wall in order to provide technical advice to the local residents and owners.”