WALKERS can now use the Cleeve Hill B3191 cliff top road near Watchet as part of the South West Coast Path following the findings of a specialist report commissioned by Somerset Council.

Temporary access had been approved in time for the Easter holidays, allowing pedestrians to use the route from Good Friday, March 28.

Further work will be done over the coming weeks to provide a safe arrangement which will allow the access to be shared with cyclists.

However, the road will remain closed to motor vehicles, including motorbikes, on safety grounds.

It was closed in January last year due to cliff stability concerns, since when the council has been working with a Watchet Task Force representing the town council and chamber of trade, to minimise the impact of the closure.

A £30,000 package of measures to promote and support the town was approved.

The package included ongoing surveys of the cliff and road to see if access for pedestrians could be safely provided at a future point.

Now, on the back of a report by geological consultants Geckoella following months of careful monitoring, Somerset Council has concluded access for walkers can be allowed.

However, the report found the road could not be opened to motor vehicles due to concerns about weight issues and the proximity to the cliff edge.

Motorcycles also cannot safely use the route because it is dedicated only for walkers, cyclists, and mobility scooter and wheelchair users.

Task force chairman and town Cllr Sean Terrett said: “I am sure that our town’s many visitors, residents and businesses will be very excited to see this popular walking and cycling route restored and reconnected to the tourist hotspots located within the Cleeve Hill area.

“The positive impact this will have on our town’s many shops this Easter and throughout the summer will be phenomenal, and one that we as a community have truly missed since the closure of the B3191.

“We look forward to welcoming friends old and new from the walking community and in some weeks’ time from the cycling community to our beautiful town, with open arms.”

Somerset executive Cllr Richard Wilkins said: “This is fantastic news.

“We know the closure of the Cleeve Hill road was extremely difficult for the community in Watchet and has caused a lot of concern.

“Providing access to walkers, and eventually cyclists is going to be hugely beneficial for Watchet and the nearby holiday parks toward Blue Anchor.

“It means holidaymakers and residents affected by the closure can now leave their cars and walk into town in a matter of minutes, it is great for tourism and for local businesses.”

Cllr Wilkins said walkers were urged to stay away from the unstable cliff edge and signage would be put in place along with more permanent measures to ensure people’s safety.

He said the coast was a dynamic environment, and providing access was conditional on continued monitoring and surveys of the cliff edge to ensure that public safety was monitored proactively.