Upgrades to Westward Ho! slipway have already been warmly received by beach-goers.

Rock armour from Bideford's Clarence Wharf car park has been used to protect the slipway. Picture: TDCRock armour from Bideford's Clarence Wharf car park has been used to protect the slipway. Picture: TDC

A £38,000 scheme to improve access to the Blue Flag beach is now complete following a week of works.

The slipway has been anchored below the sand, into the clay level of the beach. The new structure has also been given more protection from storms and waves with new rock armour – large boulders brought in from Clarence Wharf Car Park in Bideford.

Off-site preparations included the construction of a steel reinforcement cage which was welded so that it could be craned directly into place.

A system was then utilised to create forms around the structure into which concrete could then be poured. These were designed to be quick to construct and remove in-between tides and facilitated the pouring of around 650 cubic feet of concrete for the main slab of the slipway.

Workincluded a reinforced concrete extension tied into the slipway to take access down below the level of the base of the beach. Picture: TDCWorkincluded a reinforced concrete extension tied into the slipway to take access down below the level of the base of the beach. Picture: TDC

Extensive ground works were also needed to reach down beneath the sand to the clay sub surface of the beach into which the newer slipway structure has now been cast.

The depth of the excavation meant that dealing with the constant ingress of groundwater was another challenge the engineers had to overcome.

Local ward member for Westward Ho!, Councillor Nick Laws, said: “The extension to the slipway was designed to alleviate the scouring and associated ponding at the bottom of the slip, which made access very difficult at times.

“I stood at the top of the slipway today and watched a motorised mobility scooter simply glide off the beach and onto the slipway. This is a fantastic achievement by Torridge’s engineering team and contractors and I am full of admiration, not only for the design, but also the dedication and determination to see everyone finally able to enjoy our wonderful beach.”

The delivery of the steel cage at Westward Ho! slipway. Picture: TDCThe delivery of the steel cage at Westward Ho! slipway. Picture: TDC

Ward member and deputy leader of TDC, Cllr Claire Hodson said: “I am delighted that our officers and local contractors which included SEL Clarke, The John Grimes Partnership and CG Surveys worked together so efficiently to deliver this upgrade in challenging conditions.

“I know already that this has been well received and will hopefully make access for families with young children, or the elderly or physically impaired more straight forward and less of a challenge then it has been in the past.”

Torridge MP Geoffrey Cox said the work was ‘welcome news’ in time for residents and tourists to enjoy Westward Ho! during the summer holidays.

He added: “It was extremely pleasing to see Torridge District Council approve these works in June, and I am grateful to all the councillors, officers at TDC, local business owners, and others, who have worked together in recent months to agree a solution to the lack of safe access onto the beach.

“I will continue to lobby the Environment Agency regarding the need for substantial investment in sea defences and flood protection at Westward Ho! to safeguard homes and businesses on the seafront as part of the long-term shoreline management plan they have already committed to.”

Further coast protection works are planned to follow-on in September and will involve the placement of further rock armour along the upper beach area.

The rock armour will provide an interim measure to help mitigate the impact of severe winter storms prior to the long term coast protection works funded by DEFRA and managed by the Environment Agency.