Hazardous B3191 cliff road expected to remain closed indefinitely

A clifftop road near Watchet is set to remain closed indefinitely for safety reasons on expert advice.

Somerset County Council initially closed the B3191 at Cleeve Hill on 12 January following the results of a geotechnical survey. Now more detailed inspections have revealed further movement is inevitable and it will be impossible to safely reopen the road without major intervention.

The team is exploring the possibility of applying for Government funding to save the road but it is thought this option is highly unlikely to materialise due to the huge expense involved and practical difficulties in saving the cliff.

The English Coast Path in this area has already been diverted – walkers are reminded for their safety to follow the signage – and the Council is currently exploring opportunities to create cycling and wheeling connections for residents in the area and visitors to access Watchet.

Cllr Mike Rigby, Somerset County Council’s Lead Member for Transport and Digital said: “The situation with land movement in this part of the cliff is terminal, eventually the road is going to disappear into the sea.

“It’s essential we keep the closure in place indefinitely for the safety of the public – the level of risk attached to keeping it open is frankly unacceptable.

“We understand people’s concerns about losing this road and have invested £4 million in works at Blue Anchor to safeguard road access for businesses and residents in the area, so that they will have an alternative route for the long-term.

“There are a couple of options laid out by our engineering experts which could potentially save the road but we have to be clear, these would be a significant in terms of undertaking and scale and with a price tag running into the many millions.

“We have to be realistic – that’s not just unaffordable for this council, in all likelihood it’s unaffordable for Government at this time, given the huge pressures on public spending.

“Nevertheless, we will explore all options with the Government to see if funding is possible.”

Chair of Watchet Chamber of Trade (WACET), John Richards said: “The current situation is making it very difficult for local businesses to survive, with significant less footfall since the road was closed.  

“We are already working on a plan to mitigate the situation and we will include Somerset County Council, Somerset West and Taunton Council, Watchet Town Council and Watchet CCT (plus the new Somerset Council after 1 April 2023) in these plans to ensure visitors are encouraged to continue visiting the town, despite the loss of this picturesque, through route.

“Shops and businesses only survive on this passing trade, so it is vital that we look at all possible solutions to mitigate this loss of business.”

Somerset County Council has been liaising with all key stakeholders in the area to hear peoples’ concerns and further engagement is planned.