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Dorset community pleased with May date for tunnel opening
THE west Dorset community has welcomed news that Beaminster tunnel road is to open in May a month ahead of original estimates – but want to keep the pressure on to make sure it does.
And there is optimism that 2013 will be a better year for traders.
Restaurateur Mat Follas, of the Wild Garlic, said if the tunnel opens on schedule before the summer the town should be set for a good year in 2013.
He said: “I think the main thing is to get it open before the summer really kicks in and then Beaminster is going to have a cracking year.
“I think the Olympics did us more damage than the tunnel did, to be honest.
“Until the tunnel is fixed we will see a slight downturn of people because there is a perception that we are hard to get to whereas the reality is it is an extra five minutes.”
The county council has approved £2.24million for a soil stabilisation scheme to repair the tunnel and it is hoped the work will last for the next 150 years.
Motorists Rosemary Snell and Michael Rolfe were killed when a landslip hit the tunnel and road in the July 2012 floods.
Broadwindsor district councillor Jacqui Sewell said it was very good news the tunnel was to open earlier than expected but she would maintain pressure on the county council to keep to its timetable. She said: “It is for the benefit of the whole community to get it open as soon as possible so I am delighted it is scheduled to re-open in May.”
Coun Sewell paid tribute to the work done by Beaminster county councillor Rebecca Knox.
He said: “She has done a fantastic job and the funding is in place and it is fantastic it is on schedule to open in May.”
Town and district councillor Janet Page said it was really good news the tunnel would be re-open in May.
She said: “The town did look busy over Christmas so the message has got through and I think there are some people who are shopping here who would have perhaps gone on to Crewkerne before.”
Resident Maggie Warnett, who lives on the Mosterton side of the tunnel, said: “We are absolutely ecstatic and delighted that they have started work. We can see all sorts of things happening there.
“We do feel that they are doing their best, they are pushing it ahead as fast as they can.
“On the other hand, it does affect our lives quite dramatically.
“I am particularly involved in lots of voluntary things in Beaminster.
“We have to drive down the Ridgeway, down White Sheet Hill and both are in extremely poor condition and getting worse as the weeks go on.
“We can’t wait for it to open again.
Couple Killed In Devastating Floods During Summer
A landslip closed Beaminster Tunnel on the evening of Saturday, July 7, the day devastating floods hit West Dorset.
It was ten days later that the horrific truth emerged – the huge mudslide had crushed a car, killing its occupants Rosemary Snell and Michael Rolfe who were travelling home through the tunnel after having dinner in Beaminster.
The A3066 axis road from Bridport to south Somerset has been closed at the tunnel ever since as a result of fears that the surrounding land and potentially the tunnel structure are too unstable to guarantee its safety.
The 345 feet long Horn Hill tunnel north of Beaminster was completed in 1832 and is a Grade II listed structure. It is 20 feet high and 20 yards wide and when built was hailed an exceptional civil engineering achievement for its time, allowing trade traffic to head north to Bristol through the hill.
The closure of the tunnel this summer caused alarm among the Beaminster business community as shoppers and passing trade bypassed the town and prompted a campaign to promote the fact that Beaminster is open for business.