A PUBLIC meeting is to be held as preparatory work starts on the £2.1million Beaminster Tunnel repair scheme.
The groundworks began on Monday ahead of tomorrow’s, December 6, summit in the town.
The developments come after it emerged that a fresh landslide hit the stricken tunnel in the recent downpour.
Councillor Rebecca Knox, Dorset County Council ward member for Beaminster, said: “There was another landslip at the tunnel during the recent heavy rain.
“It is excellent that works can start now on the slopes, following the extensive investigation of their geological make-up.
“The town and the parishes need the road opened up as soon as possible. Let’s get on with it.”
The latest landslide was on the south side of the tunnel – the opposite end to where motorists Rosemary Snell and Michael Rolfe were killed by in the July floods.
Some of the land had already began to slip after the July rains but a sizeable amount – similar in total to the fatal landslide – came down recently.
Work has started to fence the works area, set up welfare facilities and clear vegetation.
The public meeting will be held at 6.30pm at Beaminster’s Public Meeting Hall so residents and businesses can hear about its progress and have questions answered.
Members of the council’s cabinet are also expected to confirm funding for the £2.1million scheme despite a lack of central government money to help pay for it.
This preliminary work is being undertaken now so that construction can start in the new year.
The main project will involve 1,000 nails, each between ten metres and 12 metres long, being driven into the slope.
They will be connected to a mesh to cover and retain the surface layers.
There will be drainage to remove water from the soil nailed slopes and prevent surface water from nearby ground running on to the stabilised area.
The final few metres of the arches at the north and south entrances will be strengthened with reinforced concrete.
The wing walls on the approach to the tunnel portals will be anchored into the slopes with soil nails drilled through the wall.
Cabinet member for transport Coun Peter Finney said: “Our engineers have been working tirelessly over the last four months to investigate all the options available for reopening the Beaminster Tunnel with a safe and long-lasting solution. I’m pleased that we have been able to start preparation work so soon after the preferred option of soil nailing was confirmed.
“This shows our commitment to reopening the tunnel as soon as we can.”
The public meeting will consist of a short presentation on progress, followed by a question and answer session with bridge and structures manager John Burridge and principal engineer Matthew Jones.
Visit the website dorsetforyou.com/beaminstertunnel for more information on the project.
Facility closed since fatal landslide last July
A LANDSLIP closed Beaminster Tunnel on the evening of Saturday, July 7, the day devastating floods hit West Dorset.
But it was only 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 northwards to Bristol through the hill which is 650 feet above sea level.
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 publicity campaign to promote the fact that Beaminster is open for business as usual.