Two Somerset councils to work closely to repair vital coastal road

Somerset County Council is preparing to fund a West Somerset coastal defence that will help protect an important costal road in the county.

The County Council will work with Somerset West and Taunton Council – the Coastal Protection Authority – to deliver and maintain the rock armour.

The investment of up to £4m is being funded through a Government highways grant and will enable rock armour to be installed at the foot of eroding cliffs to protect the road; and will also benefit nearby properties. The cliffs will also be re-profiled to stop future slippage and stabilised with coir mesh and turf.

The decision is being considered following a consultants’ feasibility study, commissioned by Somerset County Council, looking into the best ways to protect the B3191.

Somerset County Councillor John Woodman, Cabinet member for Highways and Transport, said: “The rock armour will help protect the coast road at Blue Anchor, an important link for residents and visitors in West Somerset.

“We are working closely with Somerset West and Taunton Council so that we can get these works under way as soon as practicable. Having considered various options we are pleased that we have been able to find a solution that is not only affordable within our highways grant, but can deliver the necessary protection, and maintain access for people and businesses in the area for the long-term”

Somerset West and Taunton Councillor Sarah Wakefield, Executive Member for Environment, said: “The concept of this scheme has been around for many years but without funding we and our predecessor authority have been unable to deliver the protection to the road.

“Nevertheless, as a Council we have recently been able to undertake some significant and urgent works to neighbouring infrastructure to ensure that this option of a wider and more permanent solution remains viable. We are glad to be able to offer our knowledge and skills on coastal protection matters for the benefit of the wider community.

”The central government’s highway grant is a welcome relief that brings the opportunity closer to becoming a reality. We look forward to working with Somerset County Council, Parish and Town Councils and local communities to bring forward this important scheme.”

The stretch of coast at Blue Anchor has a long history of erosion and the two councils are working with the Environment Agency (EA) to identify and address the issues.

Some large voids were discovered behind the sea wall immediately in front of the Blue Anchor Hotel in June 2020. Somerset West and Taunton Council began emergency works and the first phase was completed in July 2020.

This involved filling the voids to stabilise the wall and reduce the risk of collapse.  A second phase of work is planned to start this autumn and will involve placing rock armour to protect the wall and cliffs from wave action.  These two phases of work, funded by Flood Defence Grant in Aid from the Environment Agency, will be incorporated into the design of a comprehensive permanent scheme to protect the road which will aim to commence construction next year, according to Somerset County Council.

John Buttivant, coastal engineer with the EA, said: “Over recent years the rate of erosion here has increased considerably.  The existing wall was being outflanked and in danger of collapse.  The funding that we have provided for emergency repairs to the wall and placing of rock armour will immediately reduce the risk to the road and properties.  This work will allow time for the necessary designs and approvals for a permanent solution to be implemented.”

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