WORK to repair the stricken Beaminster Tunnel could cost £1.75million and take six months.

Beaminster traders lodged a petition with Dorset County Council demanding that the tunnel be demolished and a road put through following a fatal landslide in July.

But members of the council’s environment overview committee ruled out any demolition – costing £9 million – or a £15 million bypass.

Instead they cited two preferred options. The first is to reinforce the slopes above the tunnel entrance using long steel pins and meshing – costing about £1.5million and taking about 10 months.

The second is to build a concrete hood over the tunnel entrance around its sides to protect it from future landslides and funnel any debris away.

This would cost between £1.5million and £1.75million, and take about six months.

Now the council is set to continue its investigations on the site before making a final decision although it hopes more details will be available for a public meeting in Beaminster on October 18.

Ward councillor Rebecca Knox, who is also deputy chairman of the environment overview committee, said that council officers were working hard on solutions.

She said that businesses and residents were being affected every day in Beaminster and surrounding villages.

Coun Knox added: “What they want around town is the quickest and safest option.”

Forty five of the town’s businesses signed the petition to spur Dorset County Council to put a solution to the road closure at the top of the agenda.

Traders cited demolition in their petition to grab the council’s attention but said they wanted a solution quickly.

Beaminster trader Robin Samways, of the Ann Day Gallery, said: “We just want the road open.

“We are not necessarily saying you have to blow the tunnel up to do that and obviously looking at the costings that is one of the most expensive options and would probably take the longest time.

“We want some action.”

He added: “They don’t seem to have any urgency, they don’t seem to realise it is the main road from the west country to the Jurassic Coast.

“It is just ridiculous.”

Other options include temporary shields up to strengthen the wings, or entrances of the tunnel, at a cost of around £200,000 which would see the road re-open in around 12 weeks.

Reducing the gradient of the slope above the tunnel to one in three would cost up to £3million.

Officers insisted at the council meeting that work was ongoing despite a local perception that not much was being done at the site.

They also said that the council would be contacting the Roads Minister for help with funding.

The committee agreed to write to the traders saying it had noted the petition but also set out its views.

The public meeting is on Thursday, October 18 at 6.30pm at Beaminster’s Public Hall.

Mudslide Hid The Tragedy Of Couple’s Death

A LANDSLIDE closed Beaminster Tunnel on the evening of Saturday July 7, the day devastating floods hit West Dorset.

But it was only ten days later that the horrific truth emerged – the huge mudslide had crushed a car, killing its occupants Rosemary Snell, pictured, and Michael Rolfe who were travelling home through the tunnel after dining in Beaminster.

The A3066 axis road from Bridport to south Somerset has been closed at the tunnel ever since as a result of fears that the surrounding land and potentially the tunnel structure are too unstable to guarantee its safety.

The 345 feet long Horn Hill tunnel north of Beaminster was completed in 1832 and is a grade two listed structure.

It is 20 feet high and 20 yards wide and when built was hailed an exceptional civil engineering achievement for its time, allowing trade traffic to head northwards to Bristol through the hill 650 feet above sea level.