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PLANS TO RE-OPEN UNDERCLIFF DRIVE BROUGHT TO THE TABLE


In the Isle of Wight Cabinet meeting that was held at Whitwell Village Hall last night (Thursday) the future of Undercliff Drive was discussed.

Although it was said last night that the local authority does not have enough money to fund the rebuilding of the Undercliff – the Government have been approached to see if they can help.

An ‘Expression of Interest’ has been submitted to the Department for Transportation Maintenance Challenge Fund to come up with a suitable solution for the future of the landslide in St Lawrence.

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The council will then send a detailed bid for the funding if approved during the competitive period.

A spokesperson for the Isle of Wight Council said:

“An Expression of Interest has been submitted to the Department for Transportation Maintenance Challenge Fund to design and deliver a solution for the possible reinstatement of Undercliff Drive.

“If successful in this competitive process, the council will submit a fully detailed bid for the funding.”

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A post on the Whitwell Village Facebook Page last night says:

“The Isle of Wight Council has announced that it will be providing finance to reinstate the Undercliff Drive.

“This will be linked to a UK government bid.”

This, if reopened, will mean that the once-popular tourist road route will be able to reopen to traffic for the first time since the closure in February 2014.

Nearly 6 years ago emergency services descended on Undercliff Drive between Niton and Ventnor to assist in evacuating residents, removing possessions and securing the area.

The evacuation – February 2014

Timeline of events over the past 6 years

Works to be carried out to strengthen Undercliff Drive
October 2013

A multi-million-pound scheme to strengthen the roads at Undercliff Drive and Bounldnor was announced and would start in November 2013.

Roadworks scheme started
November 2013 

The major road scheme got underway.

The landslide
10th February 2014

A landslide occurred on Undercliff Drive in Ventnor leaving just a metre of the carriageway behind and restricting access to properties.

Undercliff collapse (IWC)

A property was evacuated
14th February 2014

One property was evacuated and vehicular access to nine others has been severed as further land movement on Undercliff Drive prompted safety concerns.

Army called to assist
15th February 2014

The British Army was called in to assist the Isle of Wight’s authorities in preventing further flooding and damage to the Island – at that point, it was unclear whether they were going to be involved in the evacuation of Undercliff Drive.

Possessions removed
16th February 2014

Emergency services descended on Undercliff Drive between Niton and Ventnor and assisted in evacuating residents, removing possessions and securing the area.

A major operation to evacuate locals
18th February 2014

A major operation to evacuate locals and retrieve possessions from homes at risk of collapse at Undercliff Drive continued with the arrival of larger British Army vehicles.

Army called to assist with Undercliff Drive evacuation

Plans to permanently close Undercliff Drive
29th May 2014

The Isle of Wight Council said they were considering three reports from Island Roads about sections of Undercliff Drive affected by ground movement earlier in the year, with the option of permanently closing Undercliff Drive on the table.

6 options for the future of the road to be discussed
28th June 2014

Six options for the future management of Undercliff Drive, St Lawrence were to be discussed by the Isle of Wight Council’s Executive when they planned to in the following month.

Residents invited to a meeting
17th August 2014

Local residents were invited to a meeting in Ventnor to discuss Undercliff Drive and the road ahead for the currently closed stretch of carriageway.

The large landslide

£500,000 considered being spent
4th September 2014

The council’s Executive considered allocating up to £500,000 from the council’s capital programme contingency budget.

Council agreed to spend £500,000
10th September 2014

The Isle of Wight Council agreed to spend some £500,000 on Undercliff Drive to reinstate access to the area.

Unauthorised road built by locals
24th October 2014

The Isle of Wight Council, working alongside Island Roads, were sent to prevent vehicular access to an unsafe section of Undercliff Drive as a matter of urgency after local residents rebuilt part of the carriageway without permission or approval.

The Residents’ built road at Undercliff Drive

Urgent site visit
27th October 2014

Senior officials from the Isle of Wight Council were set to meet to discuss Undercliff Drive following an urgent site visit to speak to residents after the road was rebuilt by locals without permission.

Road to remain closed

Later that day, following a series of meetings between Isle of Wight Council officials they concluded that Undercliff Drive would remain fully closed to all motorists due to the risk of the patched-up road failing, posing a risk of a serious incident. 

Independent technical review
14th November 2014

The Isle of Wight Council published an independent technical review of two previous reports into a temporary road recently constructed by residents at the western end of Undercliff Drive.

Road closed signs removed
23rd January 2015

The Isle of Wight Council advised Island Roads to reposition road closure barriers along Undercliff Drive after they were moved without permission.

Road ahead closed sign heading towards the Landslip

1 year on

Reassurance
14th February 2015

A year later, the Isle of Wight Council’s Executive member for public protection and highways PFI reiterated the authority’s commitment to an already approved scheme to give vehicular access to residents of Undercliff Drive affected by the landslip.

Works set to begin
19th May 2015

The Isle of Wight Council confirmed details of work to create vehicular access to properties affected by the landslip.

Preparatory steps to restore access
23rd June 2015

Preparatory steps were set to begin for a new scheme to restore access to Undercliff Drive.

Asbestos found in the unauthorised road
26th August 2015

The Isle of Wight Council confirmed that asbestos had been found in the rubble core of a temporary makeshift road laid by residents.

Works halted
16th September 2015

Work to create a turning head and access road for residents living in the Undercliff would not fully commence until at least August 2016 as an assessment of rare bats needed to be undertaken before trees could be felled.

Works begin at Undercliff Drive

2 years on

Works due to begin
18th February 2016

Works to restore access to properties at the Undercliff were said to begin on-site following work by the Isle of Wight Council and Island Roads to tackle a number of issues which had threatened to halt the progress of the planned scheme.

3 years on

Feasibility study authorised
15th February 2017

Caretaker Council Leader, Cllr Dave Stewart, authorised a feasibility study to establish the economic impact of the Undercliff Drive landslip and confirm if the problem can be stabilised to allow the road to be reinstated.

Compensation
27th April 2017

£5,000 in compensation was to be paid by the Isle of Wight Council to a family from Undercliff Drive following an investigation by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO).

The driveway of a bungalow that had to be evacuated.

4 years on

MP urged the government to help
13th June 2018

The Island’s MP, Bob Seely, urged the government to use its coastal erosion fund to help the Isle of Wight Council find a solution to the Undercliff Drive landslip issue.

Green Party steps in
11th July 2018

The Isle of Wight Green Party called for an ‘all solutions’ discussion to the future of the route.

Meeting to discuss the reopening of the road
28th July 2018

Over 100 local residents packed into Niton Village Hall to discuss the possibility of re-opening Undercliff Drive to all traffic.

Niton end of the Undercliff (Where the old permanent traffic lights used to be)

5 years on

Authority asked the locals for their views
13th June 2019 

The local authority was seeking the views of residents, businesses and visitors on possible plans to re-open the road which suffered the significant landslips in 2014.

58% in favour of re-opening the road
18th October 2019

A consultation on the future of Undercliff Drive came out with 58% in favour of re-opening the road to through traffic.

Almost 6 years on

Council can’t afford to fund the Undercliff without help
9th January 2019

Discussions were held during the Isle of Wight Council’s Cabinet meeting, held at Whitwell Village Hall, over the future of the Undercliff Drive – in which they said the local authority could not fund without the help from the Government.

The views/opinions expressed in these comments are solely those of the author and do not represent those of Island Echo. House rules on commenting must be followed at all times.

13
Comment on this story

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Az-zahra Aziz
Guest
Az-zahra Aziz

A cheap fix would be to use gabion stainless steel heavy duty cages, fill with the countless rocks along that coastline, and build them up all along the stricken area. After all it is only a stones throw of damage.

That way cars could drive slowly on that section, and, IF as is likely, it starts to ‘move’ again, then additional cages could be added, amended as necessary.

It is NOT on a sheer cliff edge, the movement is gradual, and no danger would be present as tilt detectors would cheaply be installed.

I find it incredulous that during the WW2, huge ravines were bridged, often under enemy fire, and which had to take the weight of armoured tanks, that a permanent iron structure cannot be made that could span the fault area, and be wide enough to be stable in it’s own right, and could be moved, added to, IF or as the ground moves over the future decades.

What a shame we don’t have real engineers like Brunel as they did in Victorian and pre days.

Now we have expensive ‘feasibility studies, which if contain one word of doubt or danger, will be consigned to the waste bin after spending millions.

Odd other EU countries just get on with their crumbling roads in a practical way whereas we spend so much time, ‘doing it right’ that NOTHING gets done at all, expect the chosen few have better ‘lined pockets’ at the end of the consultation.

Joe Blogs
Guest
Joe Blogs

All that extra weight on the unstable land would just cause more land movement which would just take the gabions with it. One of the contributors to the land movement was the tons of concrete the council used in their first attempt to keep the road open. Any attempt to reopen the road must include proper drainage and keeping an weight added as low as possible.

Wise old owl.
Guest
Wise old owl.

The added weight of the concrete beam had nothing to do with it.To form the beam up to 5 metres deep of tarmac was broken out first prior to the groundwork’s commencing.Once the tarmac was removed the unstable ground behind it wasn’t secure and weeks of heavy rain made the situation even worse until it slipped overnight,braking the newly built beam.At this point the beam was basically free standing as the anchoring systems designed to hold the beam and ground in place didn’t work.21 mtre long steel rods were to be drilled into the rock but at that depth they were basically loose in the land slip.Given the volume of sodden lanslip that moved I believe it would of taken the old tarmac road with it,it was just unfortunate that the groundwork’s were going on at the same time.

Old bean
Guest
Old bean

If the council didn’t waste so much money there would be enough money in the pot if and only if it’s gets the go ahead please get mainland company to do this work please

What's the point!
Guest
What's the point!

What’s the point in re-opening the road?
Nobody has missed it and more land movement is inevitable.

Joe Blogs
Guest
Joe Blogs

Yes people have missed it, especially holiday makers who have come to see the undercliff. It is also a damn nuisance to locals having to take quite a long diversion to get around it.And land movement wont be a problem if the council drain theland properly and maintain the drainage which they failed to do before the slip occured.

Joe Blogs
Guest
Joe Blogs

Yes it is possible to reopen this road, but first the council MUST DEAL with the drainage. If they had looked after the drainage in the past, this would never have happened. Locals who lived in the area repeatedly told them but they completely ignored them.

Joe Blogs
Guest
Joe Blogs

Rare bats were more important than people’s homes and business.There are plenty of other trees for the bats to live in.

Richard
Guest
Richard

Come on guys this project surely is not rocket science is it?

Gary Peace
Guest
Gary Peace

Although this topic was discussed at the Cabinet meeting last night, this should not be taken as a sign of support for reinstatement of the Undercliff Drive. The area of the landslip is actually located in my ward (Ventnor West) and there is significant opposition to reinstatement of the road amongst the people I represent.

I was elected on the basis that I was opposed to rebuilding the road. Nothing has happened since that has altered my opinion. I should also point out that my views were not considered when the council decided to make an expression of interest to the government. As the local elected ward member, I was only informed of the fact, after the event.

The argument that the Undercliff drive is a key route is a false one. Anyone who actually knows and travels the area will question how it could ever be classified as more significant than the Whitwell Road?

Arguments about economic damage caused by the failure of the road cannot be relied upon. The Bournemouth University study referred to should never be used and I find it offensive that this study is still being pushed out to mislead people. It was, by its own admission “flawed”. It stated itself that its findings could not be relied upon – It is not worth the paper it’s written on.

The questions were leading, the survey was targeted at an unrepresentative sample of people. Not all residents were questioned, not all businesses were questioned. And, importantly no equivalent comparisons could be made about damage to trade or loss of business because no previous surveys had ever been done – You cannot say that there had been a loss of trade when you don’t know what the previous trade figures were. Let’s also not forget that the road has been and had been then closed longer than it had been open. Also, most of the businesses now open have been opened since the road collapsed (17+ years ago) and as such, they do not know the difference.

In the 15+years that I have lived in St Lawrence, the road has been closed longer than it’s been open. Its lack of significance is also proved by the fact IoW Council have refused to grit it in past winters, cutting the village off from the rest of the island. They did this precisely because it wasn’t an important road.

Fixing the landslip or coming up with a workaround is not beyond our capability. The question is “Should we”? The issue is not just 100m however. The whole of the Undercliff is subject to a landslip. This is recognised internationally 12km from Blackgang in the west to Bonchurch in the east, and including the town of Ventnor and the villages of Bonchurch, St Lawrence, Niton and Blackgang, the Undercliff is the largest urban landslide complex in northwestern Europe.

This island has been awarded “UNESCO Biosphere” status. This hard-fought prestigious award should be immediately reviewed and revoked if the works proceed. We cannot have biosphere status if at the same time we are destroying a site designated as SSSI.

Of greater benefit to tourism would be to advertise the area as it is now. An SSSI protected site, a haven for rare plants, bats and owls. As a beautiful walking and cycle route.

There is no reason why the forthcoming Tour of Britain or other island races couldn’t be run along the Undercliff in its current walker friendly form.
Leaving the Undercliff as it is now would allow far greater numbers of people and tourists to experience the magic of the place. People now walk and cycle this route every day to and from Niton, improving their health and wellbeing and all without damaging the environment.

My position has support in this matter from across the political spectrum and all parties. I am grateful also that Ventnor Town Council, have voted against this reinstatement.

The more responsible approach would be to refocus on supporting the Whitwell Road and exploring again the option of a bypass. Spending our scarce resources on a road that is fit for purpose and which will last for the 50, 60 or 70 years. Not on a road that may collapse again in 5 years.

Cllr Gary Peace
Elected Member for Ventnor West
Cabinet Member for Community Safety & Digital Transformation

Dave
Guest
Dave

How many of us used to just go for a drive on a Sunday afternoon because of this road??
I know I did either in a car or on a motorbike!!
The shear beauty of the road and surrounding areas made it all the more worthwhile I would take family visitors through there

I’m sure if a fundraising page was set up it would raise the funds needed ‍♂️

Az-zahra Aziz
Guest
Az-zahra Aziz

Whilst the area is lovely for walkers, cyclists and nature as it now is, it seems a simple job to bridge a few yards of a dropped roadway.

It is not on the edge of a steep precipice where terrible danger would ensue should future movement occur. A gradual slip, rather than a fall may occur, but if the bad portion was shored up as I suggested, the danger would be ‘greater’ from a tree falling on you from any island road bordered by trees.

I think it is selfish of those who ‘wish’ to keep it shut, as it ‘suits’ them better that way to have a beautiful and now quiet road in which to live.

If this were the more costly Military road, which is a huge problem to sort I could understand it, but this ‘could be’ a cheap safe short term fix, or, by spending on an iron bridge a more expensive but lasting repair, bridging the fault and water issues.

I prefer it closed as I like the walk, but doesn’t mean that is the ‘right’ decision.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Been talked about long enough, businesses have struggled down this road… Sadly a cheap fix will keep needing more and more money… Only way to fix it is to do this properly sadly it will be expensive but at least it will done. So best put piles in, stabilise it and rebuild.
Also would help when open add an extra route back in as roads and parked vehicles round Whitwell plus any accidents ect… Wod help.

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