B3191 Cleeve Hill to close for foreseeable future amid erosion fears near Watchet

Cleeve Hill, between Watchet and Blue Anchor, has been closed Credit: Google

A key Somerset coast road will stay shut for the foreseeable future until measures to stop it falling into the sea can be agreed.

Somerset County Council closed the B3191 Cleeve Hill in Watchet yesterday (12 January) after heavy rainfall accelerated the ongoing erosion along the stretch of the coast.

This decision came only a week after Somerset West and Taunton Council refused plans for 136 homes on the edge of Watchet, which would have moved the road significantly inland.

The district council has now reiterated its desire to secure the road's future - but it will remain closed until a project with the Environment Agency (EA) has been agreed.

The B3191 connects Watchet to Blue Anchor and provides a diversion route from the A39.

This is a key route for holidaymakers travelling from the M5 to the Exmoor National Park and the Butlin's holiday camp in Minehead.

A section of coastline between Blue Anchor and Watchet in West Somerset has been deemed dangerous. Credit: ITV West Country

The road will be closed until at least 31 May, according to the county council's Travel Somerset service.

But this could be extended depending on how long it takes for a scheme to be agreed and funded.

A significant stretch of the coastal path was previously diverted inland in August 2022 to protect walkers from cliff collapses.

A 2020 study for the county council by WSP identified a number of schemes which would maintain either all or part of the road between Watchet and Blue Anchor.

It included a new bypass through the former Wansborough paper mill site (where 350 new homes are planned), linking the road up with the B3190 Washford Hill, or building a "tidal lagoon" across Watchet harbour with the new road running on top.

Plans for 136 homes on Cleeve Hill in Watchet with realignment of the B3191 Credit: Architectural Studios South West

District councillor Andrew Sully, portfolio holder for environmental services, provided an update when the full council met in Taunton on 7 February. He said in his written report: "There continues to be movement of the cliffs to the west of Watchet.

"The allotment site belonging to Watchet Town Council has been closed due to land slippage, and this area continues to erode through wave action and through the inherent instability of the ground which is worsened through heavy rainfall.

"The cliffs in this area will continue to erode, and the county council has provided warning signs on the West Street slipway.

Following delays caused by a lack of available ships, Mr Sully confirmed that rock armour to protect the cliffs and the nearby road would begin arriving in the spring, allowing the £3.8m project to get under way and be finished by the summer.

He said in his report: "I am pleased to report that vessels have now been definitively secured to deliver the required rock armour from Glensanda Quarry in western Scotland.

"It is proposed that 13,500 tonnes of rock will be delivered in late-April/ early-May 2023, transported by sea-going vessels to Blue Anchor and transferred at sea to a barge to land the rock on the beach. The rock will then be placed against the cliffs to prevent wave undercutting."

Credit: Daniel Mumby, Local Democracy Reporter