Work to secure the future of a crucial Somerset coast road will not begin until the spring of 2022 due to delays in obtaining planning permission.
Somerset West and Taunton Council carried out emergency repairs to the sea defences at Blue Anchor in 2020 to prevent the eponymous pub and the B3191 from falling into the sea.
A total of £4M has been committed to a more permanent scheme, which construction originally intended to begin earlier this year.
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But delays in obtaining relevant permissions from other public bodies have pushed the start date back to early-2022.
The B3191 provides a vital link between Minehead and Watchet, serving as a relief road when the A39 is congested or closed for repairs.
Both Blue Anchor and Watchet have seen significant coastal erosion over the last few decades, with regular cliffs falls putting both the road and nearby properties at risk.
(Image: Somerset West and Taunton Council)
The council carried out emergency improvements to the Blue Anchor sea defence walls before Christmas, with 1,800 tons of rock armour being place at the base of the cliffs to protect the road and pub above.
Councillor Andrew Sully, portfolio holder for environmental services, laid out the reasons for delaying the scheme in a report published before a full council meeting which was originally due to take place on Tuesday evening (July 27).
He said in his written report: “The permanent scheme requires planning permission, approval from the Marine Management Organisation (MMO), Natural England and the Crown Estate. A design is currently being finalised by our engineering consultants, WSP.
“It is anticipated that the work will start in spring 2022, as there is a 13-week wait for MMO permissions and a further lengthy lead-in time to secure appropriate sea transport to deliver the rock.
“The work can’t be undertaken in the winter months without a great deal of financial and delivery risk – hence the spring start date.”
The new scheme involves stabilising and “regrading” the upper slopes of the cliffs near the Blue Anchor pub, as well as protecting a further 130 metres of the coastal area.
It is expected to cost £4M, with the bulk of the money coming from Somerset County Council along with some smaller grants from the Environment Agency.
While the county council is legally responsible for highway matters, the work will be carried out by the district council under its coastal protection remit.
(Image: Somerset County Council)
At the Watchet end of the B3191, just over £28M could be spent moving the road inland, with the cliffs being reinforced to protect dozens of properties.
This cost could be reduced if the district council grants permission for 136 new homes on Cleeve Hill, with the developer promising to foot the bill for the realigned road in return for delivering fewer affordable homes.
A decision on this application is expected to be taken later in the year.