Leeson Road will remain closed this summer, Isle of Wight residents have discovered, following an update at a public meeting in Ventnor this evening (Tuesday, May 14).

Held at St Catherine's Church, the meeting also provided updates on the Eastern Esplanade, The Graben, Undercliff Drive, Gills Cliff Road and Bath Road. 

Due to 'fire regulations', only 200 tickets were available to attend the meeting, despite the same venue hosting around 400 people at the previous meeting earlier this year.

The panel at the meeting included Natasha Dix, Isle of Wight Council service director of waste, environment and planning, and Rob Gillespie, chief executive of Island Roads.

What happened to Leeson Road?

Isle of Wight County Press: Bonchurch landslip from the air Bonchurch landslip from the air (Image: Kyle Tremlett)

Leeson Road was hit by a landslide in December 2023, the latest in a sequence of reactivation events that occurred in 1995 and 2001.

The landslide displaced 11 hectares of land and 14 million cubic meters of material, making it one of the largest landslides recorded on the south coast of Britain.

The causes are attributed to coastal ‘toe’ erosion of the sea cliffs, the winter rainfall and excess groundwater levels.

Leeson Road has been closed ever since.

Leeson Road update

Isle of Wight County Press: The current closure in force on Leeson RoadThe current closure in force on Leeson Road (Image: IWCP)

Mr Gillespie said: “The frustration and concern felt by everyone is genuinely understood.”

The Island Roads chief executive told residents there had been speculation on social media about there never being a plan to reopen Leeson Road. Mr Gillespie said this is not the case.

Island Roads and the IW Council want to see Leeson Road open again.

Mr Gillespie said: “There is no permanent fix for Leeson Road in the medium to long term. There is more work to be done.”

In the future, it is hoped that Leeson Road will have a fully operational monitoring, warning and closure system, as well as a Global Navigation Satellite system.

Island Roads said the short-term aim is to drill 60-70m deep boreholes to house further specialist monitoring and groundwater level equipment.

Leeson Road will remain closed throughout the summer, with monthly reviews, but a decision is expected to be made on its future by September.

Smugglers Haven Car Park

The car park was closed as part of the initial emergency response to reduce the likelihood of interested sightseers parking to look at the landslip.

After consideration, Mr Gillespie said it is felt that the risk of "landslide tourists" has reduced, and the car park has been reopened.

This also provides easier access to the footpath at Nansen Hill, though access and use of the area will continue to be monitored.

Eastern Esplanade

Isle of Wight County Press: Sea defence work on Ventnor's Eastern EsplanadeSea defence work on Ventnor's Eastern Esplanade (Image: IW Council)

At Eastern Esplanade, 152 king piles have been driven into the ground, and 146 timber panels fabricated and installed.

Hand railings are currently being added, and upon completion, work will start on reopening the promenade. The planned reopening is Friday, May 24.

The promenade will be affected again in early June for a ‘short, localised and temporary closure’ to allow additional repairs to be carried out on the seawall at Wheelers Bay.

Natasha Dix said access on the promenade would be kept open as much as possible during the work.

The Graben

Isle of Wight County Press: The Graben in VentnorThe Graben in Ventnor (Image: Isle of Wight County Press)

Works have been completed to the footway to maintain safe passage, and cracks will be sealed to try to guard against further water ingress into the sub-structure.

The area is under "almost constant" monitoring by Island Roads.

There is currently a plan for a two-week closure of The Graben to allow for Southern Water works.

These works will likely happen in June, during school time.

Undercliff Drive

Isle of Wight County Press: Undercliff Drive closureUndercliff Drive closure

There is currently movement in the area, which has severed measuring and utility equipment and connections.

St Lawrence residents affected by the recent landslide are "being assisted where possible" by the IW Council.

Visual inspections are carried out at regular intervals and can be increased as appropriate.

Gills Cliff Road

Isle of Wight County Press: Landslide at Gills Cliff Road in VentnorLandslide at Gills Cliff Road in Ventnor (Image: IWCP)

Island Roads said, "It is a priority to get Gills Cliff Road safe and reopened."

The cliff face, which is on privately owned land, collapsed into the road and destroyed a set of traffic lights - resulting in the current road closure.

Teams have cleared the debris and carried out detailed inspections.

The inspections show cracks in the cliff face that cause concern regarding ongoing stability, said Mr Gillespie.

It is believed that the immediate risk can be managed through properly anchored netting around the cliff face. 

Bath Road

Isle of Wight County Press: Rubble on Bath Road in VentnorRubble on Bath Road in Ventnor (Image: Isle of Wight County Press)

The road saw a collapse of the boundary wall in a private property, together with the slump of land behind the wall. 

The ground is of "unknown stability."

Island Roads says it needs to cooperate with the landowner, which has been proving difficult to the extent that legal notices have been issued and subsequently refuted.

Legal access is required to investigate, and once this is achieved it will likely take “three to four months to investigate, design and build.”

What did residents say?

Residents at the meeting were allowed to ask the panel questions regarding the various works being undertaken in Ventnor.

One resident told the panel that businesses in the town “are in crisis,” explaining that Ventnor “really needs more people moving around,” and the current works and closures are responsible for halting that.

Another resident asked Mr Gillespie how much movement had been monitored on Leeson Road and The Graben.

Island Roads said they did not have the figures on hand, but Mr Gillespie said he believes The Graben has moved significantly more than Leeson Road.

The resident asked why Leeson Road was closed and not The Graben if that was the case.