A STRETCH of coastal road in south Devon reopened this week one year after being washed away in heavy storms.
A 400m, £200,000 stretch has been completed 21m further inland to replace the washed away section of the A379 Slapton Line.
The road runs between Kingsbridge and Dartmouth along the Start Bay coastline, along a shingle ridge that separates the English Channel from the freshwater lagoons of Slapton Ley and its surrounding marshlands.
The shingle ridge preserves unique conditions that support a rich variety of bird life in the Ley.
The area is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a National Nature Reserve and lies within the south Devon area of outstanding natural beauty and heritage coast.
The new road has been designed to minimise disturbance to the shingle by placing the otherwise conventional construction on a geotextile membrane.
The solution was needed after a combination of high tides and easterly gales caused 250m of the 4km Slapton Line to be washed away in January last year.
A £150,000 temporary single lane, with traffic signals, was completed last Easter to ensure that tourists gained access to nearby villages such as Torcross in the summer. While Slapton Line was blocked, cars had to divert around the local unclassified roads causing heavy traffic that they were not designed for.
Large boulders were placed along the temporary Slapton Line road to protect it from the sea, but conservation groups fiercely opposed the emergency rock armour.
'This ridge is gradually migrating inland and English Nature insists that this natural migration is allowed to continue, ' said Devon County Council (DCC) assistant environmental director, David Andrew.
Now that the new road has opened, these 5-10t boulders will be removed, along with the remaining single lane.
The new road is only expected to last five years before it too becomes a casualty of the advancing erosion. Andrew adds: 'We have effectively bought ourselves five years to come up with an acceptable long term scheme for the Ley. We have put out a tender package for a study that will pin down the issues involved.'