A £13M scheme to strengthen a coastal road on the Isle of Wight has been labeled a 'waste of money' because it will not protect the road from landslips, local protestors claimed this week.
The A3055 Undercliff Drive is located on one of Europe's largest natural landslips. The Department for Transport-funded scheme would stabilise the land in four areas immediately around the road with piling, drainage and earthworks.Isle of Wight Council has just approved compulsory purchase orders and hopes to start on site with the scheme next autumn. But protestors are claiming it will not protect sections of Undercliffe Drive from potential collapse because of an agreement with Natural England (formerly English Nature) under which it would only support the scheme on a Site of Special Scientific Interest if the lower part of the slope is not stabilised and drained off. Natural England argued that the natural environment at Undercliff 'depends' on active mudslides.'We initially objected to the scheme on the grounds it could include land drainage... down-slope of the development,' says Natural England in a letter to a local resident seen by NCE
.Newcastle University geotechnical expert Mark Lee warned in a report for Natural England that allowing ground water to drain to the bottom of the slope could damage the road.'These movements would cause the removal of support and increase the likelihood of further retrogressive activity,' he said.Paul Hatchwell of the Undercliff Defence Committee said the road should be realigned further inland.'An inland route is the sustainable long-term solution so why are they spending all this money [on Undercliff]?'Nick Gallin, principal engineer for highways at Isle of Wight Council, defended the scheme. 'Nothing lasts forever, but this scheme has a design life of 50 years. That doesn't mean to say it will not last longer.