It’s over four weeks since Pier Street in Ventnor was closed due to the partial collapse of the front of a house on the corner of Pier Street and Alexandra Gardens.
Since the evening of 11th July, access to the Winter Gardens and Ventnor’s popular seafront via Pier Street has been forbidden after the Isle of Wight council ordered Island Roads to close the road.
Well, not for everyone it seems.
Special case made for Cheetah Marine
Several residents got in touch with OnTheWight last week to report the road being reopened late at night to allow the transfer – through the blocked Pier Street – of two boats down to Cheetah Marine boatbuilders on the seafront.
An eye witness described what they saw as a fully-kitted out boat being towed by a Land Cruiser and another large vehicle towing a boat hull. This was followed by the return journey to take the trailers back up the Cascade, through Pier Street again.
The movement of vehicles took place whilst most us were tucked up in bed between 11pm and midnight on Tuesday (1 Aug).
Resident and businesses ask – Why two sets of rules?
It’s understandable that Cheetah Marine would want to be able to carry out their business of building boats, which requires them to transport boats between their two sites – seafront and up in the town. What’s got residents and other businesses confused is why the council is allowing special rules for them.
Residents (including those from the property next door) who have not been able to gain access to their own property for four weeks – with the council telling them it was ‘unsafe’ – are wondering why the same council has decided that it’s OK for a fully-loaded boat, Land cruiser and trailer to pass by the same building, through Pier Street, but they’re not able to gain access on foot to retrieve their personal items.
Seafront traders: Hopping mad
Many traders on Ventnor’s seafront have been hopping mad that the usually easy flow of cars from Ventnor town to the sea front have been hampered by the four week closure of Pier Street – the road is the primary means of getting between the two parts of the town. This closure is leading, they say, to a loss of trade for them during the usually busy Summer season.
Many point to it taking the council/Island Roads over a week to even set up the diversion boards to guide the traffic around the block, after businesses and residents had been requesting this since the first day of the road’s closure.
Having been approach by several residents, OnTheWight posed the following question to the IWC over a week ago. At the time of publishing, the council has failed to provide a response.
Given the road has been closed since the partial collapse of the building in Alexandra Gardens and residents of the adjoining property have also not been allowed to enter building for over three weeks because they’re been told it was unsafe – How was it thought that driving large vehicles and trailers loaded with boats and boat hulls could be judged to be safe, but people entering their houses, on foot, to access their possessions is not?
What date is it intended that the road be reopened and neighbours be let back into their houses?
We understand from a resident who wrote directly to the IWC, that a member of staff in building control gave permission for the road closure to be lifted for the transfer of boats.
Weight restriction now in place
Interestingly, two days after the road closure was opened overnight for Cheetah Marine, the IWC issued a new road closure order for the small section of Pier Street from the junction of Albert Street and Alexandra Gardens, a one-way route (downhill) for the cascade (Shore Hill), and a weight restriction for Hambrough Road (7.5 tonnes).
The question on many people’s lips in town is, “Why one rule for one person and another for the rest of us?”
Reply from the council
It’s taken over two weeks for the Isle of Wight council to reply to the two simple question OnTheWight asked about this movement. Here’s their reply:
The partial collapse of the property in Alexandra Gardens left the building in a very unsafe condition. Due to the height of the building, a further collapse could have affected anyone well outside of the site boundaries and on the evening of the incident it was considered necessary to close Pier Street.
Subsequent to this, there was a further collapse on the 19 July. The owners arranged for internal propping of the floors and roof to be undertaken to prevent the risk of a further major collapse, but there was still a risk of debris falls and the road closure and cordon therefore needed to remain in place until the building had been made safe on 11 August.
Prior to the road closure being lifted, the council was contacted by a company who requested if it would be possible for the road to be opened for a short period of time late in the evening to allow a large vehicle movement .
Clearly there was some risk associated with this, but after taking account of all factors, including the reduced risk of a major collapse due to the temporary propping and the very short time that the vehicle would take to pass the building, it was considered that this controlled vehicle movement was acceptable. Allowing residents to enter the property, however, would have resulted in them passing directly alongside the collapsed part of the building and directly exposing them to the risk of falling debris, and the risk of someone being injured in this way was considered too great.
The decision to close the road was not taken lightly. We understand the disruption that this road closure caused and appreciate the patience of residents and businesses affected. We are sure that anyone who saw the building will appreciate the danger that this building posed and that the safety of people must take precedent.
We would very much have liked to have opened the road and allowed residents back into their properties sooner. However, the works to make the property safe were not directly within the council’s control and the property owners acted as promptly as possible given the difficult circumstances.
Update: 21 Aug 2017: Added response from IWC