The council carried out a 6-week consultation over the summer seeking the views of residents, businesses and visitors on possible plans to re-open the road, which suffered significant landslips in 2014.
Around 770 surveys were completed either online or in hard copy form with 58% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing to the reinstatement of the road to vehicular traffic. This compared to 40% of people who strongly disagreed or disagreed with the reinstatement proposals. The remainder neither agreed nor disagreed.
Almost two thirds (63%) of people who gave a PO38 Ventnor postcode – the area in which the Undercliff is located — either agreed or strongly agreed with the proposal. However, the views of the rest of the Island were less clear with 47% of respondents either agreeing or strongly agreeing with the proposal and an almost identical proportion, 46%, disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.
The full findings can be viewed here.
Councillor Ian Ward, Cabinet member for infrastructure, said:
“The Undercliff is a complex issue that doesn’t lend itself to a quick solution.
“Following the outcome of this survey, we have asked officers to source possible funding for a range of investigative studies which we need before we can consider an appropriate way forward.
“However, in the meantime, I have asked officers to consider a potential package of road safety improvements for Niton to address the influx in traffic the village has experienced since the road closure.
“This includes measures Niton Parish Council discussed with me earlier in the year.”
Council leader, Councillor Dave Stewart, said:
“Firstly, can I thank everybody who took the time to complete the survey on this very important issue that not only impacts on Niton, but the whole Island.
“We fully appreciate that some local residents do have legitimate concerns of which we will be mindful.
“My view is it cannot be beyond our engineering capability to find a way to remedy a landslip of less than 100 metres.
“We have houses and businesses spread along the length of the Undercliff but the economic damage of the closure has spread well beyond these areas with businesses as far away as the West Wight also noticing a drop in trade and tourism following the closure.”
Undercliff Drive was affected by major ground movement during the very wet winter of 2013/14, which resulted in the Army being called in. The landslides led to the loss of the road at 2 locations, land-locking nine homes.
The main reasons given by those in favour of reinstating the road were improved accessibility, the benefit to tourism and businesses on the Island and the increase in traffic in other locations resulting from the closure. Those against the proposals cited the cost of the work, the risk of future landslips and the ecological impacts among their concerns.
The cost of producing a design to re-open the road to traffic is estimated to be around £200,000 and would involve topographic surveys, ground investigation boreholes, stability analysis and an environmental impact assessment.
Currently, the cost to reinstate the road is estimated to be between £1 million and £2 million, dependent on whether a scheme allows one or two-way traffic and if the new route was restricted to vehicles below a certain weight.
The council has acknowledged that ground movement will continue in the future and any investment in the area will need to take this into account.