SPECIALIST engineering surveys have confirmed the B3191 coastal road at Cleeve Hill, Watchet, which closed last January, will never reopen and all Somerset Council can do is to ensure the closure remains in place for the safety of the public, the unitary authority’s leader said this week.
In a statement after meeting Watchet Task Force - which is campaigning to boost the town’s economy - Cllr Bill Revans said: “Going cap-in-hand to Government is not going to provide us with the £30 million or more we need to build an entirely new road.
“The current financial picture for this council is extremely challenging.
“We have to be realistic and work with the situation as we find it.”
Cllr Revans said he and local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger and the task force had agreed to work to support Watchet, boost its economy, and try to minimise the impact of the loss of the route, as well as identifying potential funding for a new road.
He said: “We are not ruling out a funding bid for a new road should a suitable pot of Government money become available.
“And we of course understand the intense interest locally in seeking potential avenues.
“The work we are doing with businesses in the town to understand the economic impact will support any future case for a bid and we will continue to have an open dialogue with the Government on potential funding streams when they become available.”
Mr Liddell-Grainger said any attempt to restore a road into Watchet would continue to receive his fullest support, and he had already been in touch with Ministers about the situation.
He said: “I think we have to be realistic and accept that simply going to Government with a begging bowl is not going to resolve the problem, which is why it is eminently sensible to proceed this way.
“But what must be stressed at every stage is that this is not about obtaining funding for some desirable or cosmetic road scheme.
“It is about restoring a vital transport link whose loss has had a clear and provable negative economic impact on Watchet’s economy - a situation which will pertain to the town’s continuing detriment until a new road is built.”