Up to 100 coastal homes face being cut off by an ongoing landslip that is on the verge of swallowing up a cliff-top road, a new report reveals.
Engineers have found that the access road to the seaside properties could crumble over the edge of the 80ft cliff in Weymouth, Dorset, in as little as six months.
The report highlights how the cliff edge is now just 6.5ft feet from the highway and that the land is still moving.
It states: ‘It is anticipated that the next significant movement…could result in loss of some or all of the road. Such an event is most likely during winter but is possible at any time in response to rainfall, storm and wave triggers.’
The alarming conclusion has shocked homeowners who are demanding the local authority takes immediate action to shore up the cliff.
However, officials have been accused of ‘sitting on their hands’ by delaying on making a decision to carry out permanent remedial work.
It is thought that none of the houses are at immediate risk of collapsing into the sea.
Keith Tranter, chairman of Old Castle Road Residents’ Association, said: ‘This is very concerning.
‘This has been going on for a number of years now and recommendations were made several years ago but nothing has been done about it.
‘Of course, because of the lack of action, it has got progressively worse and the heavy rainfall last year has brought the cliff perilously close to the edge of the road.
‘The main interpretation from this latest report is that we’ve got to do something and we’ve got to do something quick because a lack of action will cut off access to close to 100 households.
‘This is not a new phenomenon. The council have had years and years and years to sort out all of these problems.
‘They have been sitting on their hands and now it is extremely urgent that they do something about it.’
Fellow resident Steve Elsworth added: ‘We’re reeling in shock – we can’t believe this dynamite report has arrived on the council’s desk and they’re all but ignoring it. They’ve had it for nearly a month.
‘They sent a letter to all of the affected houses which essentially says ‘Don’t worry about it – we’re looking into it and there’s not really a problem.’
‘When the road collapses Dorset Council is not entitled to say ‘we didn’t know it was going to happen.
‘They have been formally warned by their own consultants it is not an issue they are entitled to ignore.’
The report was carried out by engineering firm Jacobs on behalf of Dorset Council.
It made nine short-term recommendations to ensure the safety of residents.
These included building a new high curb at the edge of the highway, weekly inspections and a 7.5 tonne weight limit on vehicles using the coast road.
However residents say Dorset Council has adopted just three of the proposals.
Part of the road has already been made one-way only in a bid to ease traffic there.
There are also a row of sandbags to try and prevent water trickling down onto the cliff face.
An issue that is delaying a decision is that the cliff is on private land which is owned by a property developer.
Things are further complicated as there is currently planning permission in place for three luxury homes to be built on the precarious spot.
The last major slip took place in March. It wiped around £400,000 off the value of the site earmarked for development.
C&L Developments own the large plot at the top of the cliff but are trying to sell it.
Ray Bryan, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment, said: ‘The details in the reports are essential for us to start planning how to ensure continued access to properties and businesses along Old Castle Road.
‘Although the current dry weather means there has been little change in the area of slipped land, as seen along other coastal areas in Dorset, this can change quickly with prolonged and heavy rainfall.
‘We will be carrying out some minor highway works to prevent the flow of surface water over the slope and we’ll undertake fortnightly monitoring of the area.
‘Due to the slip being on private land, which has planning permission, we are currently investigating the legalities of what can be done, and by who, as engineering work on this land could affect any future development.’
Residents of Old Castle Road said the cliff has been receding for the last 20 years.
In 2009 a significant landslip led to the loss of 6ft of the back garden of one property.