£1.5million of reserves set aside for the recharge of beaches in Holland-on-Sea will instead be spent on works to save crumbling cliffs.

After a £36million project to create 23 beaches and protect 5km of cliffs in Clacton and Holland-on-Sea was completed in 2015, money was put aside in case the beaches needed to be recharged with sand in the future.

But councillors have instead backed plans to use the fund to pay towards a £2.1million project for remedial work to stabilise a 200-metre stretch of the cliff.

The works would protect the sections for the next 50 to 100 years and will also create new spots for about 30 new beach huts.

Since February last year, three areas of cliff in Holland-on-Sea have collapsed or been identified as likely to collapse, including near Cliff Road and York Road.

A report said that if the stability of these areas is not addressed the collapse will put roads and infrastructure at risk.

The council has received tenders for the work and a separate decision will be made to approve any deal.

It is hoped that work can start during the summer weather to reduce the risk of increasing material prices and address urgent stability work more quickly.

St John’s ward councillor Mark Stephenson said: “The beach recharge reserve was put there to reduce future cost pressures to the council’s budget.

“With that now being taken away, my concern is that we’ve increased the cost pressure.

“This was earmarked for a ten year period - and now we need to find £1.5million to possibly recharge the beaches in five or six years time.”

But Carlo Guglielmi, councillor responsible for finance, said: “We have got money sitting in our reserves for the beach recharge.

“Anybody taking a stroll along the new beaches can see the sand is very much being retained.

“A couple of people have said to me there’s more sand there now than when they were originally recharged.

“There’s every indication that the reserves may not be needed.

“To make alternative arrangements would be to borrow the money, which would generate a £125,000 a year cost pressure to us, which doesn’t seem very prudent when we have money sitting there.”

Labour group leader Ivan Henderson called for British steel to be used in the project to help protect jobs at risk at steel plants in the UK.