Dartmoor Town Gears Up For Road Chaos

Laura White
Laura White

A road closure on the A382 planned for 19th June is set to cause havoc for the surrounding areas.

Temporary traffic lights have been in place since November 2017 when it was reported that the road between Whiddon Down and Chagford was flooded and huge pot holes had appeared.

Local resident Julia Sanchez contacted Devon Highways on 17 November last year to alert them to the hazard and was told that they had been out to the site and after inspection had alerted South West Water to the flooding.

SWW inspected and returned the case to Devon Highways as it appeared to be a broken culvert which would fall under Highways responsibility.
Devon Highways filled in the pothole and told Julia in an email that “works on site are progressing in relation to the drainage issue. Potholes have now been filled and the road is safe”.

What ensued appears to be a complete lack of communication between Devon Highways and South West Water. It is understood that SWW saw the report that the pothole had been filled and closed their case. Once Devon Highways saw that the SWW case was closed, they assumed that SWW had undertaken works to fix the broken culvert, and closed the case they had opened.

In an email sent from Devon Highways on 13th
December, they informed Julia that “water has been stopped flowing onto the highway and potholes repaired. Unfortunately, the lights will be here for a duration of time due to engineering difficulties in resolving the problem which will take time to design and implement properly to avoid the issue reoccurring in the future.”

It appears that Highways would be leaving the lights there for SWW while the culvert was repaired. After a particularly prolonged and heavy rainfall, Julia found herself standing in the middle of the road, on the phone to the police to find out if she would be prosecuted for moving the cones since their placement was verging on dangerous – the culvert had collapsed and pothole returned and since this site is at the top of a hill, when the traffic lights failed, as they did on a regular basis, drivers from either direction were unable to see any oncoming traffic.

It was at this point that a contractor for Highways appeared and Julia finally managed to get the message through that the problem had not been fixed and was indeed now very much worse.

A temporary road surface was laid down while Devon County Council investigated yet again.
Yet again there were delays as it was discovered that the culvert had been damaged by the roots of a tree that was on private land, and which held a Tree Preservation Order. Permission had to be sought to gain access to the land and to deal as necessary with the tree.

A notification has now been placed at the site which states that the road will be closed from 19th – 29th June and since Highways must place diversions on roads with the same classification (ie A roads) the diversion route will be via the A382, A38, A30 A382 and vice versa. This would mean a diversion of nearly 40 miles. A resident who lives on the stretch of road where the repairs will take place said that access to his property is granted so the closure wouldn’t affect his travel to and from home, but also confirmed that he had spoken to the contractor and had been informed that the culvert wasn’t going to be replaced as originally thought, it is going to be cleared of all sediment and the capstone replaced.

Devon County Council has given notice of a closure period of 10 days, but this is erring on the side of caution. If they run over their estimated time, they can be fined up to £100,000 per day. The contractor who spoke to the resident said he thought the work probably wouldn’t take more than a few days to complete.

One business in Chagford is hoping this is the case. Steve Bellman, owner of The Three Crowns hotel, said “we know it’s going to be very damaging to trade. We have 21 bedrooms here and have a constant flow of customers.

The big lorries will have no choice but to take the diversion but local people taking the narrow back roads will cause havoc and we’re already having to talk customers through various options around the diversion. The closure will effectively shut off the town and consequently any passing trade.”

The Moorlander has received confirmation that local buses will still be able to pass through the roadworks at certain times, and Spar manager David Woof confirmed that his delivery lorries won’t be affected. David said “it’s just the passing trade; the delivery lorries will be alright but we won’t be getting as many customers through the door.”