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Protesters throw cold water on stabilisation of coastal road


ISLE OF Wight Council last month submitted compulsory purchase orders for a £13M stabilisation scheme for the Undercliff Drive coastal road on the island.

The A3055 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, counterfort drains, earthworks and pumped wells to maintain the water table at summer levels.

High groundwater resulted in a landslide that led to the collapse of a section of the road in 2001 and local protestors have campaigned for a new route to be built further inland. They claim the stabilisation scheme, which would involve felling hundreds of trees, would ruin a unique microclimate in the Site of Special Scientic Interest around Undercliff Drive.

Protestors also claim that the council's proposed scheme - designed by consultant High-Point Rendel - would not protect the road from further landslips in the long term. This is because agreement was only gained with Natural England to go ahead on the basis that the lower part of the slope is not stabilised and drained off.

Natural England, which brings together English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the Rural Development Service, is reported to have agreed to only the upper part of the slope being stabilised because the natural environment around the Undercliff depends on active mudslides.

But protesters argue that movements at the slope's bottom could weaken the ground supporting the road, citing a paper on the scheme by Newcastle University geotechnical expert Mark Lee.

Lee claimed: 'These movements would cause the removal of support and increase the likelihood of further retrogressive activity.' Isle of Wight Council rejected the claims stating that the scheme has been fully appraised by the Department for Transport.

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