The road through Cheddar Gorge is to close this weekend in response to mounting concerns over safety and increasing breaches of coronavirus restrictions.
Concerns of cars travelling at high speeds along the route, drivers travelling long distances to reach Cheddar Gorge and community concerns from people living in the area have led the police and Somerset County Council to close the road from 6pm (Friday 1 May) this evening until 8am on Monday (4 May)
Last weekend, the following incidents involving people not resident within the county, included:
· Three cars containing people from different households, all together, not socially distancing and sitting around in the Gorge.
· Couple who had travelled from a city who said there were just walking locally. Officers tried to explain the impact of travelling to beauty spots rather than walking within their local vicinity.
· Couple visiting the gorge for a birthday outing.
· Family parked up eating a takeaway pizza.
· Person claiming they were doing an essential shop in Cheddar even though they lived 60 miles away.
Barriers will be in place throughout the closure of the B3135 from the top to the bottom of the Gorge. There will be no access to car parks in the Gorge throughout the closure. The closure order bans all motor traffic, including motorbikes.
The County Council’s highways contractor Skanska will be checking the barriers throughout the weekend to make sure they remain in place. Police officers will also be out patrolling the area.
Cllr John Woodman, Cabinet member for highways and transport at Somerset County Council, said: “Public safety is paramount. It’s extremely sad that we are having to close the road due to the actions of a minority who are acting in such an irresponsible way.
“We are facing a national crisis. The great majority of people understand the need to stay at home and save lives, but sadly a few are flouting the restrictions without any thought of how their actions affect others. The road will close this evening and reopen Monday morning.”
Superintendent Mike Prior said: “We have received messages from people in the community who are concerned about antisocial behaviour, car cruise-type activities, and a lack of social distancing and therefore hope they appreciate the action being taken this weekend.
“While it is pleasing the overwhelming majority of people are complying with the guidelines against non-essential travel and social distancing, there are a number of people from both within and outside the force area found to be heading to the Gorge unnecessarily. Every motorist traveling to a beauty spot risks their car breaking down or them coming into contact with lots of other people. Thankfully we have not seen this level of traffic elsewhere in Somerset.
“Last Sunday, the Gorge had as many parked cars as we would expect to see during the peak-season. Officers explained to those people the importance of the restrictions and encouraged them to comply as has been the force’s strategy since the restrictions were introduced in late-March to help save lives.
“Our priority is, and must be, protecting the health of the general public.
“The route being closed isn’t preventing people from exercising; it is being closed to prevent the people of Cheddar and surrounding communities being put at unnecessary risk.”
Anyone who witnesses an ongoing incident contrary to the Government’s guidelines, should call 101. Information about previous incidents can be made online at https://www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/report/breach-of-covid-19-restrictions