Torridge District Council is moving forward with plans to improve access to Westward Ho! beach after storm damage has left it ‘virtually impossible’.

The council’s community and resources committee heard on Monday, March 16, that named storms and spring tides in the early part of the year have caused further loss of beach material and significant damage to the private sea defences to the east of the slipway.

It means access to the Blue Flag beach is significantly reduced, and impossible for vehicles.

In response, the committee has recommended funding for a project to address access goes before the full council when it next meets.

In a report to the committee, Steve Hearse, strategic manager for resources, said: “The need to afford access onto the beach is now a pressing requirement ahead of the summer season.

“Works are required to extend the existing slipway to achieve access for users, the RNLI and emergency services.”

He added: “This is not a new problem – the slipway has been extended on at least two occasions in the past. The current condition is however exacerbated by the loss of material locally which has increased the rate of scour and erosion generally and this is having a greater effect on the overall condition of the entire sea defences.”

There are plans in place for new sea defences at Westward Ho! which are likely to include a remodelled slipway, designed and positioned to resist the pressure of the incoming wave action locally.

It means any work to extend the slipway in the meantime may well be temporary.

The report added: “Any temporary extension to achieve access onto the beach will therefore need to be robust enough to withstand the forces and wave action, if only for a few years.”

“The objective remains to achieve access to the beach ahead of the summer season. The project has already been delayed for valid reasons, but further delays are going to have an impact on the overall ability to access the beach this season.”

The committee recommended to full council that the project to fund the works which are required to extend the existing slipway be included in the council’s capital programme, be funded from a combination of Coastal Communities Grant and an external contribution, and that a planning application be submitted and consent obtained for the works.

That full council meeting is due to take place on Monday, April 6, although Torridge District Council has cancelled all meetings up to this date.