Cars, lorries and holiday traffic could soon be diverted across Weymouth’s Rodwell Trail if action is not taken to prevent Old Castle Road collapsing over a cliff.

As reported, a new engineer’s survey revealed all or part of the road is facing collapse within a matter of months which would cut off around 94 homes.

Dorset Echo: Drone footage of Old Castle Road Pocture: Finnbarr WebsterDrone footage of Old Castle Road Pocture: Finnbarr Webster

If this happens Dorset Council will divert traffic across the Rodwell Trail and along Parr Way, Boleyn Crescent, Sudan Road, Hillcrest Road, Clearmount Road and Sudan Road.

It would mean the loss of parking outside some properties on the diversion route: the council is considering turning a children’s play area at Parr Way into a car park.

Old Castle Road Residents’ Association (Ocrra) - is urging the council to shore up the road and prevent a landslip while there’s still time.

Dorset Echo: Drone footage shows how close the landslip is to the edge of Old Castle Road Picture: Finnbarr WebsterDrone footage shows how close the landslip is to the edge of Old Castle Road Picture: Finnbarr Webster

“We think it’s dangerous and irresponsible to put a main car route, and potentially, traffic lights, across the Rodwell Trail - one of the premium green arteries through Weymouth,” said Ocrra’s Steve Elsworth.

“We accept the council has a responsibility to provide an alternative if the road collapses but we’re worried they will use it as an excuse to not shore up the road. This doesn’t agree with the climate emergency Dorset Council declared less than a year ago.”

Dorset Council said it cannot shore up the landslip because a private developer owns the land and the site is in the process of being sold to a new developer – the council doesn’t know who this is.

Dorset Echo: Map showing the planned diversion route across Rodwell Trail if Old Castle Road is allowed to crumble Picture: Google MapsMap showing the planned diversion route across Rodwell Trail if Old Castle Road is allowed to crumble Picture: Google Maps

Mr Elsworth added: “We had a meeting with the new developer. If we can find him, why can’t the council? We think they are using the issue of private land as an excuse not to take action.”

Resident Janis Martin is a regular user of the Rodwell Trail and is concerned the diversion could inhibit social distancing.

She said: “If they put traffic lights at the Rodwell Trail, social distancing goes straight out of the window as people on bikes, runners, dog walkers, families all wait to cross.”

“How can we follow Government regulations if we have to crowd at traffic lights?”

In response to concerns, John Burridge, bridges and structures team leader at Dorset Council, said: “I’d like to reassure residents we are doing as much as we can at present to monitor and protect Old Castle Road. The slip is on private land, that we believe has recently been sold and we’ve yet to identify the new owner, which makes the situation more complicated. We are investigating the legal aspects of what work can be done and where responsibility lies.

“We’ve considered all nine recommendations in (the independent engineer’s) report, six of which have been actioned. We did consider a weight restriction for Old Castle Road but the practical need for delivery vehicles and other heavy vehicles to access properties and businesses on the road has to be balanced against the risk of landslide, which is currently low.

"Two recommendations in the report require access to private land, and permanent installation of equipment on it. However, a drone-based topographical survey of the slipped area will be carried out as a baseline against which any changes can be measured.”

The council said a kerb will be built on the road this summer to redirect water into road drains and prevent surface water from running onto the landslide.

Meanwhile, engineers will carry out fortnightly inspections ‘for signs of cliff retreat, subsidence and tension cracks to identify ongoing movement and risk.’

This includes monitoring:

  • the road
  • the ground between the kerbside and cliff edge
  • surface water flows
  • toe erosion (at the base of the cliff)
  • the landslide itself

If there is any sign of collapse observed in the road, the authority says it will have to be closed and alternative emergency access provided.