End of the road?

By Richard Wright

Friday, March 26, 2010

 

End of the road?

The traffic lights on the Military Road at Brook, where the cliffs are now metres away. Picture by Robin Crossley.

THE scenic through road along the Island’s south west coast looks set to become a thing of the past.

On Tuesday, Isle of Wight councillors are being told the Military Road is on its last legs and they are being recommended to turn it into two giant cul-de-sacs.

The edge of the cliff is now just metres from the road at Brook and is now restricted to single-lane traffic on safety grounds after the pace of erosion speeded up in the wet winter.

The Isle of Wight Council’s cabinet is also being warned by officers on Tuesday that if the council forced a plan for an inland diversion to a public inquiry it would probably lose in the face of expected objections from Natural England and the Environment Agency, although landowner the National Trust is not expected to object, as it did to the Afton Down re-routing plan in 1985.

The cabinet will be told it would have to spend £750,000 of council money and three years’ effort fighting, even before the millions that would have to be spent on a replacement section.

Councillors are being recommended that when the road becomes unsafe the authority severs it and puts in extra car parking and turning areas either side of the break, effectively turning the Military Road into two giant cul-de-sacs.

The Military Road has always been vulnerable to erosion and sections were re-aligned further inland in 1936.

The Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce Tourism and Industry and Brighstone Parish Council say the route is vital to the Island’s economy.

The parish council demands, at the very least, a Brook bypass that could be funded as part of the multi-million pounds in the roads Private Finance Initiative.

The trust said this week the land did not have significant conservation value — unlike Afton — and it would consider allowing it to be used, although objections could be expected from the Environment Agency and Natural England.

Prospective Liberal parliamentary candidate Jill Wareham, who lives in Brighstone, accused the Tory council of not consulting and taking the soft option.

"They just can’t be bothered.

"It’s easier for them just to let the road go, despite its importance to tourism and the inland villages."

But her Labour opponent, Mark Chiverton, said the council should carefully consider whether it was wise to spend vast amounts of council money on preserving a road when front-line services were being subjected to budget cuts.

"I don’t think it can be kept open at all costs. In an ideal world it would be but the world is less than ideal."

Cllr Edward Giles, Isle of Wight Council cabinet member for environment and transport, said: "This is indeed a difficult decision and it would be very sad to see this stretch of the Military Road closed but, in all the circumstances, it is a decision we must take with our heads and not our hearts.

"While closure seems to be the only option, there remains the opportunity to maintain pedestrian, equine and cycle access along this stretch, as well as to create viewpoints and picnic areas which will offer amenity areas from which both residents and visitors can continue to enjoy the stunning landscape."

Reporter: richardw@iwcpmail.co.uk

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