COUNCILLORS have defended their position after being criticised over the time it is taking to re-open a major route to the north of Ilminster.

After the News’ front page story last week, which reported that the road may not re-open for another two years, we sent a list of questions to county councillors Harvey Siggs, who is in charge of highways, and Linda Vijeh, who represents Ilminster.

New Road, the B3168 which adjoins Station Road towards Ilton, was closed in mid-February amid fears it could fall down a slope when large cracks appeared in a 70-metre section.

Investigations have been taking place at the site and further along the route towards the bottom of the road, also known as Cemetery Hill.

We asked the following questions: n What have you been doing to help reopen the road?

  • Why is it taking so long?
  • Why does it feel as though other projects/ issues are being pushed ahead of this road closure?
  • Why can no-one give people in the town a schedule of work taking place, how long it will take and an estimated time of completion?
  • Why are people not being kept up to date with how work is going?

We also asked Cllr Vijeh if she had spoken to Cllr Siggs about the road closure and asked her what he had said about the issue.

Cllr Siggs said the specialist nature of the investigations had meant slower progress.

He added: “If it were a simple problem with an easy resolution then I can assure you it would have been completed.

This is The West Country: Harvey Siggs.

Cllr Harvey Siggs.

“There has been no downgrading of this project in favour of other work.

“As to timetabling, as soon as we can give a definitive timetable you will be one of the first to know.

“Be assured that frustrations are not only with the public but with councillors and officers who really want resolution to this issue.”

Cllr Vijeh said she disputed claims that people have not been kept informed.

She said: “I have been in regular contact with SCC Highways – often several times a week – in connection with the road closure and the severe impact it has been having and with regard to possible compensation.”

Cllr Vijeh said she provides a written report to Ilminster town councillors and parish councils on her activities each month.

She added: “I would expect them to pass on any relevant information or to forward particular concerns raised to me for action.

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Cllr Linda Vijeh.

“The absence of this course of action in connection highways was raised by me only last week. If I don’t know what the concerns are, I can’t do anything about it.

“From the very beginning, I have pushed for a timescale of action and have been unable to obtain specific dates or timescale.

“My understanding is that one of the issues for what seems to be such a slow pace is the use of outside contractors to carry out the necessary initial investigation work before remedial action can be taken.

“The situation is complex, and while it is not an acceptable excuse, we all recognise that last winter brought with it exceptional weather and as a consequence major damage across the county, the likes of which has never been seen before.

“I take very seriously any suggestion that I might be shirking in my duties and responsibilities towards the people of Ilminster.”

  •  How has the road closure affected you? Call chief reporter Daniel Milligan on 01823-365104 or email newsdesk@chard