Ramp to go in front of 'Sideshore' centre
A new access point from the Esplanade to the beach is to be built in Exmouth.
The £175,000 ramp is being provided by Grenadier, the Exeter firm behind the watersports and retail complex on the seafront which is called Sideshore.
Made from a mixture of sustainable FSC-certified timber, concrete, and steel, the ramp will enable people to reach the beach step-free, allowing visitors with limited mobility or those carrying sports equipment to access the beach safely and easily.
At three-metres wide and 25 meters long, the ramp will provide much-needed access to the beach for those who may currently struggle to use the staircases. Sideshore itself has disability access to ensure as many visitors to the centre as possible can access the new space safely.
The sea in front of the watersports centre, though, is a dangerous stretch of water because of strong currents arising from both the sandbar off the shore and the proximity to the mouth of the Exe Estuary. East Devon District Council is responsible for the signs on the beach that warn of the danger, and claims they are of a sufficient legal standard to warn people of the dangers.
It means people who use the new ramp can access the beach safely, but will have to walk several hundred metres to reach safe bathing waters.
Construction of the ramp is scheduled to start on 4 May, and is expected to be completed before the end of June. The timing has been chosen so it doesn't disturb migratory birds over-wintering in the local area.
Ross Bower, from EAD Ecology, said: “Although the site does not lie within any designated conservation areas, it does border them. The Exe Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA) lies immediately adjacent to the boundary of Sideshore, and this area supports over-wintering birds of European importance, including the dark-bellied brent goose and oystercatcher.
"It is important that these birds are undisturbed from feeding and roosting, so the works have been timed to avoid the key winter period when they are present on the estuary, ready for their return in the autumn."
Grenadier has worked with Teignmouth Maritime Services to minimise disruption to the local wildlife and visitors to the beach. During the works, a small, contained area of the beach and walkway will be separated from the public with access to the beach still permitted via the existing staircases. The cycle route beside the beach promenade will be redirected around the back of Sideshore, and pedestrians will be provided direct access across the promenade through Sideshore, safely away from construction.
Aiden Johnson-Hugill, property director of Grenadier, said: “ A vibro-piling technique will be used which will reduce noise, ensure ample support for the foundations, and be much quicker compared with conventional methods. Almost one third of the ramp will be constructed under the current sand levels, reinforcing its strength and durability.”
Finding a solution to ensure adequate durability in a marine environment is challenging and would normally require the use of non-sustainable tropical hardwoods. Grenadier, who pride themselves on being a sustainable developer, have instead responsibly sourced FSC-certified timber to line the edges of the ramp and the handrails, which will be supported by concrete panels and a steel frame to provide a robust structure.