Temporary road suggested as businesses and residents count the cost of closure at Kelston

Highways service manager Kelvin Packer talks to local councillors Martin Veal and Geoff Ward about the state of the road

Highways service manager Kelvin Packer shows local councillors Martin Veal and Geoff Ward the state of the road at Kelston

A call has been made for a temporary road to be built as the landslip at Kelston will see the A431 closed until  at least September.

Kelvin Packer, B&NES highways manager, who says the work to fix the road is likely to cost half a million pounds, today allowed The Week In through the gates of the 150-metre section of road that has been sealed off to vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians to take pictures.

He revealed that the road had slipped an inch in the last week alone and could collapse at any time without warning.

Cracks have appeared in the initial repair work done, while the crack that we photographed a month ago is now up to nine inches wide. The pavement is also buckling but Mr Packer said the retaining wall was doing its job.

This crack has widened significantly

This crack has widened significantly

The intense rainfall is blamed for the landslip which will see the road closed for at least six months.

Also visiting the site today were local B&NES councillors Geoff Ward and Martin Veal who are in the process of planning a public meeting to update local residents and businesses affected by the road closure.

With the prospect of the road closed until the autumn, Cllr Ward, who is a Lieutenant Colonel in the TA, said he wanted the council to investigate the possibility of a temporary road for light vehicles being built by the military across Kelston Park.

Nineteen boreholes will be drilled to identify exactly is going on seven metres (22 feet) under the road. Initially six boreholes were planned but Mr Packer said the situation was three times worse than feared.

landslide signHe said that laboratory tests would analyse the make-up of the hillside and the results would be known in six weeks and then a decision would be made on which option to take to make the road safe.

Either earth anchors will be driven through the wall to stabilise the ground or concrete tubes installed deep below ground to support the wall.

In the meantime the team on site are working to release the ground water pressure.

Mr Packer said the Government had made a grant scheme available for problems like the Kelston stabilisation but if a claim was not successful he would have to look at adjusting other proposals in order to fund the repairs.

He said he was in talks with utility companies to try to cancel other planned roadworks in the area in the coming months to ease traffic flow.

Local businesses told The Week In today how the road closure is affecting them. Julie Fletcher, manager at LF Jones store in Bitton, which gets a lot of its trade from passing traffic on the Bristol to Bath road, said that business was noticeably down.

The shop sells freshly baked goods and she normally does up to four bakes a day but is currently down to just one.

Rebecca Lewis and Amy Hughes, from Leaping Lambs Nursery on the A431 at Swineford

Leaping Lambs Nursery owner Rebecca Lewis, right, and nursery nurse Amy Hughes

She said all local businesses needed the support of the community at such a difficult time.

Rebecca Lewis opened her nursery, Leaping Lambs, in January on the A431 at Swineford. There are 12 children on the books, with capacity for 38.

She said: “Since opening we have had the road flooded, the storms bought the power down for a day and now the road has closed. We are a new business starting out and the road closure will have a detrimental effect on our nursery as up to 80% of our business is from passing parents en route to Bristol/Bath. We are on a main road but effectively now in a cul-de sac.”

The Old Crown Inn at Kelston is advertising the fact that it is still open and accessible from the Bitton side of the A431. Signs encouraging customers have been put up by the Cherry Gardens roundabout at Bitton.

Manager Laura Felton said: “It’s affecting us quite badly particularly with room cancellations but we’ve had good support from local people.”

The lane that leads from Upton Cheyney to Lansdown

The lane that leads from Upton Cheyney to Lansdown is in a sorry state

Meanwhile even though the council has put up signs diverting traffic through Keynsham and Saltford, many motorists are using the lanes through Beach and Upton Cheyney to get to and from Bath, but they are not designed for that volume of traffic and verges are being worn away while the lanes are deep in mud.