Isle of Wight Council Leader, Dave Stewart, has authorised a feasibility study to establish the economic impact of the Undercliff Drive landslip to confirm if the problem can be stabilised to allow the road to be reinstated.

The preliminary drilling would look at allowing water build up to escape at the road in Niton with a view to seeking a long-term solution that would again see traffic moving on it for the first time since February 2014.

The council will be working with Bournemouth University and local expert Dr Bruce Denness, a recognised international specialist in geology, to explore the impact and a solution to what is recognised as the biggest landslip in Northern Europe.

Councillor Stewart, who is also the ward councillor, said:

“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.

“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.

“We have over seven thousand houses and business spread along the length of the undercliff from Ventnor to Niton but the economic damage of the closure has spread well beyond these areas with businesses as far away as the West Wight also noticing a drop in trade and tourism following the closure.

“I thank the council’s officers for moving this study forward so we can quickly ascertain if there is a possibility drainage could help and I look forward to Dr Denness’ findings, which will be made public.

“Fixing this is not going to be easy and it will cost money. I’m sure it won’t be done quickly because it’s a complex issue that doesn’t lend itself to a quick solution, but the the island needs to have this road open and we should be making every effort to do so despite the obvious challenges.”

Dr Denness, who has been monitoring current developments having spent much of his professional life examining movement on the undercliff, said:

“I welcome my proposals being explored by the Isle of Wight Council and their advisors and I am confident they will stand up to scrutiny. I wish to thank Councillor Stewart for his persistence in trying to get this solution accepted and started.”