Undercliff Drive and other landslips could be stopped if study carried out

Undercliff Drive could be reopened with future landslips in Ventnor averted if a feasibility study is carried out, says the council leader. 

The A3055 road to the West Wight was closed in 2014 after a St Lawrence landslip saw eight families evacuated and one family paid £5000 by the Isle of Wight Council for the inconvenience.

The issue is that water beneath the road and the wider area of Ventnor could cause a larger landslip in the future, jeopardising businesses and homes.

Council leader, Councillor Dave Stewart (Chale, Niton and Whitwell) has been liaising with a Kent company about possibly installing polystyrene “geothermal blocks” to rebuild the damaged road surface without adding significant weight to the existing issue.

A crack in the road caused by the landslip in 2014 – photo by Isle of Wight Council

However the larger issue of underground water must be addressed if the work is to be sustainable and further land slips avoided.

Cllr Stewart said: “The whole of Ventnor is sitting on this landslip. So if we don’t sort out  the water, all those properties, all those businesses, are at risk. We know that because you can’t get insurance in some areas, so if we can solve that, we might attract insurance companies back.”

The solution could mean drilling a hole through the downs, to release the water, allowing the area to dry out, and once again become a serving road without the worry of further slips in the area.

The leader claims a feasibility study will determine the costs of reinstating the old road to the West Wight.

Devastation caused by the landslip in 2014 – photo by Isle of Wight Council

He continued: “It’s an A-road, a network road, it wasn’t put there by accident, it was put there because it’s part of our Island network. There’s an awful lot of people who have lost their businesses, even Bournemouth University has speculated that we have lost £36 million a year economically due to this closure.

“I want to get that road back in there and know that we’ve done as much as possible to stop it from slipping again.”

A workman inspects the 2014 landslip  – photo by Isle of Wight Council

It’s unclear how much a feasibility study will cost, with the last estimates in 2015 returning a price tag the current administration believes to be too high.

The leader added: “If the feasibility study costs £100,000 then frankly, I don’t think that’s a problem. If it’s £1 million, then we might have a problem.”