Work to improve Westward Ho! Slipway is set to start in mid July after councillors voted unanimously to give it the green light.

Damage to the base of the existing Westward Ho! slipway. Picture: Torridge District CouncilDamage to the base of the existing Westward Ho! slipway. Picture: Torridge District Council

The full meeting of Torridge District Council heard how access to the beach at low tide has become increasingly difficult in recent years as successive storms and tides have stripped beach material away and lowered the levels.

A report to councillors said the concrete slipway has already been extended on two separate occasions but it recognised that storm damage and ongoing erosion meant a fresh solution was needed.

The support for the project also highlighted the importance of the Blue Flag beach slipway, which serves both locals and visitors alike and is a main access point for families or those with a disability.

It is also essential for rangers and the RNLI during normal day-to-day operations and for the emergency services.

Storm damage at Westward Ho! in March 2020. Picture: Torridge District CouncilStorm damage at Westward Ho! in March 2020. Picture: Torridge District Council

The meeting was told the solution would be challenging, with the action of tides and weather, plus the need to try and minimise disruption during the works.

The plan is to extend the existing concrete surface which will be anchored below the sand and into the clay level of the beach.

The new structure will be given more protection from storms and waves by positioning of rock armour (large boulders) that will be brought in from Clarence Wharf Car Park in Bideford, which is being redeveloped.

The cost will be around £38,000 and will come from existing budgets and funding balances already earmarked for Westward Ho! and also from the North Devon Coast Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Sustainable Development Fund.

It is scheduled to start in mid July during a favourable tide period and expected to take about two weeks.

During that time the access will be out of use and people will be directed to nearby steps and the sleeper bridge access point at the Sandymere parking area in Northam Burrows.

Longer term projects to repair storm damage from earlier in the year and improve resilience along other sections of the pebble ridge in this vicinity are now being drawn up.

This includes consideration of new access points over the ridge in the form of a sleeper bridge from the Wilkeys Field boardwalk.

Councillor Claire Hodson, ward member for Westward Ho! and deputy leader, said the scheme was affordable and could be implemented immediately.

She added: “This will then hopefully provide locals and visitors alike easier access to the beach and one that will prove resilient to future storms and flooding.”

Westward Ho! councillor Nick Laws said: “Not so long ago I witnessed an elderly couple trying to access the beach via the slipway and they just couldn’t manage it and had to give up which I found very upsetting.

“The problem is that due to the wave action and storms, access can change overnight and where it is level one day there can be a drop of many feet the next involving the movement of thousands of tons of sand. This is not just an extension of the slipway but one that will be embedded beneath the clay sub-surface and will therefore provide access at all times without interruption.”

Jenny Carey-Wood, AONB manager said: “We are delighted to support this slipway improvement, addressing a key priority this year to improve physical access to the AONB for local people and visitors.

“Westward Ho! beach and the burrows offer a great opportunity to improve our wellbeing with the stunning views along the coast, beach based recreation and a chance to discover its fascinating nature and heritage.”