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Masterchef Mat Follas may quit Beaminster over tunnel road delays
Dorset County Council announced a possible five-week delay to the scheduled May re-opening – blaming the high demand for geotechnical engineers following increased landslips across the country.
It also said complex negotiations with four landowners were still ongoing.
Mat Follas blasted the council for its failure to ensure experts were in place and warned the delay could see the demise of his restaurant.
He said: “My old job was a project manager and when you put together a project you put in allowances for a bit of slippage and you ensure all the trades are lined up to come and do their work with penalties if they don’t.
“If I didn’t do that I’d either be sacked or have to pay some sort of penalty.
“The reason I am angry is that doesn’t apply to the council.
“They haven’t ensured the engineers are available and that is not excusable.
“They are running anything between three and six weeks late which means anybody looking to holiday in Beaminster over the summer is probably not going to come.
“Which means that more businesses won’t be there next year and it is highly possible that we won’t be there either.
“I am not sure we can survive another summer like we had last year.
“I am hugely frustrated.
“I am in the middle of renewing our lease and it is a significant consideration whether or not we renew it.”
He said he was still expected to pay full rates.
He added: “There is no help to compensate for their poor management.”
Nigel Reeve spokesman for Beaminster’s Chamber of Trade said it was astonishing that the tunnel would not be re-open nearly a year after it shut.
He said: “It really is astonishing.
“From when the tragedy happened for at least five months the whole thing was just being talked about and all that time was lost.”
He said if the road does re-open at the end of June summer was already half over.
He said: “There are a number of business that rely on the summer trade.
“It really is shocking that it is taking this long to get it sorted.”
Although he did say that safety was paramount.
“We can’t rush the re-opening but I still fail to see to how it can take a year to get the tunnel safely open.”
Councillor Peter Finney, Dorset County Council cabinet member for highways and transportation said: “We know this is devastating news for the community, and it is certainly not what we had foreseen happening.
“The design process is complex and does take time.”
County Councillor Rebecca Knox said the delay was a massive blow to residents and businesses.
She said: “"While the closure is in place, I am stressing the importance of getting other matters addressed, such as road surfacing, drainage issues, intrusive weeds in the hedgerows, road signs and other matters that the communities in the area have been raising.”
The work will include about a thousand nails being driven into the ground with a material pinned over the slopes to hold the land in place.
The £2.1m project is being funded by Dorset County Council.
Former Beaminster Town Council chairman Douglas Beazer said: I am amazed that part of the delay has been caused by ‘negotiations with landowners’ for access to the work site.
“The county council told us that the six months period from when the unfortunate accident happened until actual work started would enable preparatory work to be undertaken. Surely they knew that access would be required to the site and it beggars belief that these ’negotiations’ were not conducted during the period of ‘preparatory work’. Coupled with this the County Council now suggest that the actual pinning work may take longer than at first scheduled, so that contractors can work on other landslips (this one is very important to Beaminster and the local area), so I suspect this will mean added cost to the project. Surely there were contracts in place before the work started, even with penalty clauses included, so that contractors had the incentive to complete this work on time and not go off to other jobs. I wonder how many more ‘delays due to unforeseen circumstances’ they will get between now and the actual reopening.”