Council Leader says they will ‘get Undercliff Drive open again’

Council leader and councillor for Chale, Whitwell and Niton, Dave Stewart, has commissioned a feasibility study to look at options to re-open Undercliff Drive to through traffic.

undercliff drive

Prior to last week’s Scrutiny Committee (see coverage), new Isle of Wight Conservative council leader, Dave Stewart, made a passing comment outside the chamber that they “would get Undercliff Drive open again”.

Just over a week later it has been revealed that Cllr Stewart – councillor for Chale, Niton and Whitwell – has now commissioned a feasibility study by Professor Bruce Denness on solutions to reopen the road to through traffic. Prof Denness gained his doctorate on the subject of Undercliff Drive, so is incredibly well-placed to carry out the study.

Permanent route within “a few years”?
Although the temporary access road for residents is now complete, the lack of through traffic for three years has had a detrimental impact on businesses both in Ventnor and Niton.

Ten months after the landslide the Government refused a request for emergency funding to reopen the road.

However, as reported by OnTheWight back in 2014, Professor Denness, who while working for the British Geological Survey built roads in challenging conditions all over the world, believes there is no reason why, within “a few years”, the area cannot be stabilised sufficiently to enable a permanent through route to be built.

Stewart: “Road has been closed for far too long”
Cllr Stewart has today told the CP,

“This road has been closed for far too long and I think the previous Independent administration seemed to just shrug its shoulders and accept it cannot be solved because of cost issues.

“However, I have said to the council it’s a priority to find a cost-effective solution because the situation cannot continue. The road needs to be back in operation.”

He went on to say,

“My view is it cannot be beyond our engineering capability to find a way to remedy a landslip of less than 100 metres – even if it is with a bridge.

“This road closure has had a significant impact on the local economy for years now and the council believes at the very least research must take place to see what the options are.”

The landslide
The landslip that took place in February 2014 (with the first signs being reported to Island Roads in December 2013), resulted in nine properties becoming landlocked.

Island Roads, through their sub-contractor, John Peck, were in the midst of a huge engineering project intended to mitigate against further potential landslides along Undercliff Drive in St Lawrence.

Funding approved
In September 2014 members of the Isle of Wight executive approved a budget of up to £500,000 to fund a temporary access road for residents.

The Executive also agreed to look at what was described as ‘option 7’, to investigate a longer term solution which would involve managing groundwater, which could potentially result in the ground being stabilised enough for a new road in the future.

The option to repair and reopen through road from Ventnor to Niton was expected to cost between £6-£20 million.

OnTheWight have published in excess of 120 articles on the Undercliff Drive saga. Flick back through the archive to read the background.

Wednesday, 15th February, 2017 6:19pm



Filed under: Island-wide, Niton, South Wight, St Lawrence, Top story, Ventnor

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38 Comments on "Council Leader says they will ‘get Undercliff Drive open again’"

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Skeptic Al

Call me a cynic if you like, but isn’t there an election coming up soon?

And which area does Dave Stewart represent?

Niton you say? Oh, I see.

And just where is Dave going to get the £20m needed to reopen the road?


They’re also targeting Ventnor West as a new Tory seat…

Geoff Lumley

With another ex-copper.

steve stubbings

Intriguingly, Gary (the tory candidate for Ventnor West) would prefer the road to remain closed to vehicles.

Spot on

Exactly …., all election propaganda


Cllr Stewart previously advise the Leave campaign during Brexit and also had a few calls from Donald Trump.

However as a local resident I would like to see it opened again so will keep an open mind but if (as I suspect) this turns out to be a false promise then the local residents will have the pitch forks out!

Steephill Jack

Maybe Cllr Stewart should consider re-opening the road from Niton to Blackgang as well ? That area could be re-stabilised at a cost of £7m.


Well done Cllr Stewart.
Half a million quid for a taxpayer funded private road to 9 properties is a disgrace.
It should be opened up so that we can all use what we paid for.

Steve Goodman

The £7 million mentioned is also a reminder of the sum spent by the cons just to set up their less than perfect PFI.


Only apathy can win the Conservatives the local election it certainly wont be on merit.Their record on education and the undercliff is a bad joke.


This route is vital for South Wight and the local economies of Ventnor, St Lawrence and Niton. It will also reduce congestion in key urban areas, hopefully bring back jobs (at least 10 lost in Niton) and more tourists. we should all be pleased!

Steve Goodman
Since the previous conservative council leader sent out the PFI snake oil salesmen (reminder below) and did the dodgy deal which partly explains why the cons. were voted out shortly afterwards, we’ve had to watch and wonder what will happen next since the breaking of the Undercliff promises (it was not only to be kept open, but also to be comprehensively upgraded and maintained for 25 years),… Read more »
Geoff Lumley
I recall slow-thinking Dave voting in favour of Tory colleagues’ recommendation not to spend any money on Undercliff Drive at a Scrutiny Committee in 2014, then trying to change his vote when his brain cells got working and he realised the implications for the residents at his end. That Tory recommendation was blocked by the other (non-Tory/Ukip) sensible members of the committee and the current temporary solution… Read more »
John Nash
Time for reality to kick in, as follows: 1. The A 3055 Undercliff Drive has not functioned as a through route for heavy traffic for more than FIFTEEN YEARS. The established through route between Ventnor and Niton is now the inland route via Whitwell – which avoids the geotechnical problems associated with the unstable Undercliff. Between Ventnor and Niton the inland route is, believe it or not,… Read more »
Stephen Cockett

Excellent comment. Thanks.

steve stubbings

I wonder how the Mexicans are going to feel about having to pay for it.


Well done Dave Stewart, the residents access only was far from ideal.

Appointing local expert Bruce Denness was so obvious you wonder why it wasn’t done before?

Steve Goodman
Less well done by Dave Stewart; the apparent failure to learn from one of his helpful (and fee-free) ward residents (Mike Starke) about the work of Bruce Denness and the far from ideal roads PFI before his cons. committed Islanders to the dodgy deal that followed their years of quietly slashing spending on our roads (as reported here OTW, also thanks to Mike’s free public service). So… Read more »
Luisa Hillard

Tim, see my other comment. It was.


Will the report be available for scrutiny and policy decision before May?

Niton Wight Satin

Let me be clear, I’m in full support of this road being reopened.

It doesn’t stop me wondering: if this is being used to bolster public opinion of Dave Stewart in Niton, in an hope to boost his election chances in May, is there an issue with council resources being used for that, like commissioning a feasibility study?


I think that you might need to do the feasibility study to enable funding from the DfT.

Stephen Cockett

That’s right Tim, nothing happens without a study.
But the interesting question here is to find out if there is a mechanism to determine if the use of taxpayers money in this way and crucially at this time pre-election is ethical?
Anyone know what the scrutiny committee is for?


I’m not at all sure that the scrutiny committee made a proper job of Inner Circle’s regeneration document, perhaps they are just out of their depth?

Given Dave’s level of totally-realistic promises given the strong funding for the IW from central government, if we elect a Tory council (forgetting the utter bungling of the previous morons) then we can look forward to our schools all being good, collapsed roads being re-opened and I wouldn’t be surprised if his next promise was to get all social care facilities on the IW ranked at the… Read more »

I smell an election in the air. Call my cynical …..

I’d rather the money pumped into Adult Social Care.

Luisa Hillard
I met with Bruce Denness, with Cllr Ian Stephens, years ago to discuss potential solutions for the Undercliff. We’ve had a geological map (part designed by him) hanging up in our office ever since. I expect that the solutions put forward now will be the same as have already been made available to the Council. Solutions which I personally think are very interesting. However, I am concerned… Read more »

Perhaps a Conservative led council will have more luck extracting funds out of central Government than Mr Bacon’s administration ever did?

steve stubbings

Perhaps. It appears to have worked elsewhere. ;-)

Geoff Lumley

They extracted sod all when running the council prior to 2013. Same with their MP


Glad this sort of comment was not made by my councillor

I had spent a good deal of time over this issue and had already agreed with Cllr Stewart that we *could* at least take the Bruce Denness suggestions further, to the point of looking at a possible feasibility study, dependent on costs involved. I understand that Bournemouth university may well conduct this ‘research’ but I cannot say to what depth and extent the scope of the research… Read more »
steve stubbings

It’s great to have your informed and reasonable voice back on OTW! For the caretaker to suggest that we all ‘shrugged our shoulders’ is characteristically scurrilous.

John Nash

This obsession (that is what it truly is) with maintaining a road corridor through the beautiful Isle of Wight Undercliff is bonkers. Not one of you says anything to acknowledge that this wonderful natural asset should be valued and protected in its own right. “Drain the Swamp” springs to mind!

@ john nash Good observation. Given that nothing much more tangible is going to happen for a good few years at best. I’d be more inclined to improve the Whitwell Road route which is not suitable as the main route through the area. Used by many cyclists and tourist buses in the season it is a narrow road in places and there is of course the large… Read more »
John Nash
Colin, re the widening fissure on the seaward side of Whitwell Road, can I point out that when this problem was first noticed in the 1950s, the road was realigned to go around it and this accounts for the wiggle in the road shortly after leaving Ventnor. Can I quote from the Coastal Manager’s report (Paper D) to the Environment and Transport Select Committe dated 19th January… Read more »
My observations of the Undercliff road are that many of the previous schemes have over elaborated in search of a “permanent” solution, when cheaper repairable schemes might be more successful. With this in mind might I be so bold as to suggest that learning the lessons from the slip in front of Beauchamp that the existing route is moved to much nearer the upper cliff face with… Read more »
The retaining of the iconic natural features of our island is key to sustaining visitor satisfaction. political posturing has no place in deciding the future of the Undercliff road from Niton to Ventnor, or any other visitor attraction. There will come a point, due to geological instability and erosion, where not only will we loose the road, but residents will also loose their homes, this is an… Read more »