New railings to prevent danger

AS an island nation, Britain has always had defences for keeping people out – but now it's got fences along its coasts which appear to keep them in!In truth, it's the nanny-state gone mad.

AS an island nation, Britain has always had defences for keeping people out - but now it's got fences along its coasts which appear to keep them in!

In truth, it's the nanny-state gone mad.

No-one will fight them on the beaches any more because it is just too darned dangerous to get down onto the shores in the first place.

With every organisation frightened of being sued if there is an accident, visitors to the seaside have to be made as safe as possible, unable to take responsibility for themselves.

The result at Felixstowe is a stark and hideous row of signs alongside an internationally-important nature reserve, signs warning of all kinds of dangers on the seafront . . . and now ugly railings at Felixstowe Ferry.

It has left some people asking what next? Will the National Trust and other landowners have to put railings along the edges of all coastal cliffs in case someone on a footpath topples over?

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The railings - like the signs at Landguard - have been put up by the Environment Agency, but residents are furious they were not consulted.

Betty Smith, of Rose Cottage, and a member of Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club, described the 100 metres of galvanised 4ft-high iron railings as "monstrosities".

She said: "This is supposed to be an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and now we have these awful railings which look like a solid metal barrier as you walk along. It's terrible.

"We have been here 30 years and no-one has ever fallen off the wall onto the beach."

Chris Smith, who owns land containing the beach huts and a caravan, said: "I am cross. It will spoil the whole outlook from the Ferry.

"We were given no warning at all. They're bolted into the sea wall, you're going to get children climbing over them."

Councillor Andy Smith said the sea wall had been in place 50 years, was used by thousands of walkers each year and there had not been any accidents.

"The Environment Agency is supposed to protect the 'environment', but these railings are not environmentally-friendly at all on our heritage coast and look awful," he said.

"Surely a number of discreet signs could be put in place, which would be much less stark and intrusive and more compatible than galvanised iron rails."

Councillor Chris Slemmings said: "It is the result of an increasingly litigious society where we will end up with scaffolding for mountaineers.

"I personally feel it is the responsibility of an individual to look after themselves, but it is difficult to argue with a risk assessment and legal advice which says you have a duty of care."

Tony Ratcliffe, chairman of Felixstowe Ferry Preservation Society, said the railings were "hideous, overkill, caused by a nanny society".

The railings are a "safety measure" by the Environment Agency to protect children from falling over the sea wall, following, it is understood, a fatality in another part of the country.

A spokeswoman said: "The aim is to protect the public, particularly children, from the drops.

"It's as a result of a health and safety risk assessment, which highlights the need for those types of improvements along sea walls where the vertical drops are more than two metres."

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DOWN in the south-west it is possible to walk miles along cliff paths with sheer drops to the English Channel below and not a warning sign or fence in sight.

Many seaside towns have drops to the beach from their promenades - there are no railings at Swanage where the water laps against the narrow quay, or on the lower prom at Lyme Regis with a drop of more than eight feet to the beach.

On that town's famous sloping Cobb - where Meryl Streep was filmed in a dramatic storm in The French Lieutenant's Woman - there are no rails and only the tiniest notices on its steps warning that it might be slippery.

Closer to home, across the water at Harwich, there are no railings or large signs on the front where high tide hits the prom and a child could easily run off into the sea.

But at Felixstowe the resort has signs and rails on sea defences, warnings painted on the prom about drops to the beach, signs to warn about the dangers of groynes, rocks, waves from big ships, jet-skis and swimming in hazardous tides.

Some fear the growing number of warnings will put visitors off coming to the seaside - others say if there are too many notices people will ignore them.

Suffolk Coastal council has promised a review of its warnings and to remove any which are unnecessary, but the Environment Agency is acting on legal advice which says the public must be protected - or could face paying compensation.

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