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Old Castle Road in Weymouth is under threat of falling into the sea

Old Castle Road in Weymouth
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According to a worrying new report, a part of Old Castle Road in Weymouth could fall into the sea.

The report comes after Dorset Council commissioned Jacobs to perform a site inspection to measure the potential danger posed to residents and the land. The findings were that immediate action was required to prevent all or parts of the road from crumbling down the edge of the cliff within the next 12 months.

The road, which is atop cliffs above Castle Cove beach, experiences strong erosion which has led to a landslide and resulted in a lane closure. If any part of the road was to collapse, up to 90 houses could become cut off.

After the release of the report, Old Castle Road residents now fear not only for their properties but also their safety.

We knew it was bad, but we didn’t realise it was this bad.

The report is unequivocal. The landslide will occur again in the near future, and it is Dorset Council’s responsibility to shore up the road before this happens. In our view, the council is shirking its responsibility.

Dorset Council should stop sitting on their hands, and come up with a workable plan to do just that and do it soon to avoid a catastrophe.

Keith Tranter, Chairman, Old Castle Road Residents’ Association

Dorset Council received nine short-term recommendations to help the road remain stable. So far, Dorset Council has chosen to apply just three.

We’re reeling in shock – we can’t believe this dynamite report has arrived on the council’s desk and they’re all but ignoring it – they’ve had it for nearly a month.

They sent a letter to all of the affected houses which essentially says ‘Don’t worry about it – we’re looking into it and there’s not really a problem.’

When the road collapses Dorset Council is not entitled to say ‘we didn’t know it was going to happen. They have been formally warned by their own consultants it is not an issue they are entitled to ignore.

Steve Elsworth, Resident, Old Castle Road

Dorset Council announced plans to divert traffic from Old Castle Road into six nearby roads. Part of this will be across the Rodwell Trail, which has been described as “well-kown and much-loved local walking and cycling trail”.

The idea of sending vehicles across the Rodwell Trail is highly controversial and fraught with danger.

There is only one solution to this problem – to shore up Old Castle Road. Dorset Council should stop sitting on their hands, and come up with a workable plan to avoid a catastrophe.

Keith Tranter, Chairman, Old Castle Road Residents’ Association

In response to residents’ concerns, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said:

The details in the reports are essential for us to start planning how to ensure continued access to properties and businesses along Old Castle Road.

Although the current dry weather means there has been little change in the area of slipped land, as seen along other coastal areas in Dorset, this can change quickly with prolonged and heavy rainfall.

We will be carrying out some minor highway works to prevent the flow of surface water over the slope and we’ll undertake fortnightly monitoring of the area.

Due to the slip being on private land, which has planning permission, we are currently investigating the legalities of what can be done, and by who, as engineering work on this land could affect any future development.

Councillor Ray Bryan, Dorset Council

Pitching in, Dorset Council Bridges and Structures Team Leader, said:

I’d like to reassure residents that we are doing as much as we can at present to monitor and protect Old Castle Road. The slip is on private land, that we believe has recently been sold and we’ve yet to identify the new owner, which makes the situation more complicated. We are investigating the legal aspects of what work can be done and where responsibility lies.

We’ve considered all nine recommendations in the Jacobs report, six of which are now in action. We did consider a weight restriction for Old Castle Road but the practical need for delivery vehicles and other heavy vehicles to access properties and businesses on the road has to be balanced against the current risk of landslide.

The final two recommendations listed in the report require access to private land, and permanent installation of equipment on it. However, a drone-based topographical survey of the slipped area will be carried out as a baseline against which any changes can be measured.

John Burridge, Dorset Council

It’s understood that council engineers will carry out regular inspections to identify potential issues before they arise. As part of the monitoring, they will check the road, the ground between the kerb and cliff-edge, surface water flows, erosion at the base of the cliff and the landslide itself.

Should any issues be identified, the road may have to be closed and emergency plans will be put into action.

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