PROPOSALS to temporarily use a county road as a diversion route around a popular Radnorshire beauty spot have been described as “preposterous and dangerous”.
Frustration is mounting over access to the spectacular Devil’s Gulch, a popular area along a walking path close to the Pen y Garreg Reservoir in the gorgeous Elan Valley – which has been closed to the public for more than two years.
Access has been prohibited since November 2018 due to rockfall which made the path impassable and has led to estimated repair costs of more than £1 million.
The “extremely unstable” condition of the rock face led to the Welsh Government extending the path’s closure for a further six months earlier this year, while Elan Valley Estate managers Welsh Water held two information and engagement sessions via Zoom last month, at which they encouraged members of the public to voice their concerns and suggestions.
Welsh Water are liaising with Powys County Council (PCC) over temporary diversion routes within the estate. A key priority is said to concern a possible use of the county road as a temporary, alternative route. But this measure has been lambasted by one local resident.
“I have read the proposal being put forward by Welsh Water, who have taken two years to get to consultation, during which time further damage to the Devil’s Gulch has occurred,” said Pauline Morris.
“This is the most scenic and peaceful section of the Elan Valley trial, being the only part that does not run next to the road. It is the section most used by elderly walkers, the disabled and families, yet Welsh Water has done little to reopen it.
“Their current position that the road around the Elan Valley is used instead is preposterous and dangerous.
“They say they cannot afford the repairs to the Devil’s Gulch. What about using the £3.3 million received from the National Lottery Fund for ‘promoting appropriate public access’ to the Elan Valley?”
Since originally barring access to the area, four further rock falls have occurred, with more likely, which poses a very real risk to public safety.
Expert engineers have been brought in to assess its condition and provide professional advice on possible solutions.
Proposals that have been put forward so far are deemed excessive as each would cost more than £1m, with Welsh Water claiming funding is currently available.
The long-term solutions proposed for the Gulch include: pin and net the rock faces on either side of the Gulch; construct a tunnel through the Gulch using steel and concrete beams; cut back the rock face beyond its current position; create a diversion route avoiding the Gulch through the Rhos yr Hafod and Allt Goch side; or create a diversion route around the nearby Pen y Garreg reservoir.
Alun Shurmer, Welsh Water’s director of customer strategy and engagement, said ahead of February’s consultation: “We appreciate the inconvenience the closure of the Gulch has caused regular users of this popular route, but protecting the lives, health and safety of the local community and visitors is and must be our upmost priority.
“While we are committed to encouraging the community and visitors to come and enjoy the fantastic outdoor amenities that we have in the Elan Valley, we have limited funds available to us, especially at present with increased costs due to the Covid pandemic, and our primary need is to maintain essential water and wastewater services to our three million customers across most of Wales and Herefordshire.”
Councillor Heulwen Hulme, PCC cabinet member for countryside services, said: “The council are working closely with Welsh Water to identify solutions in the short and long term.
“We understand and appreciate the inconvenience this closure has caused, however, as the health and safety of all users is paramount, this needs to remain in place until a permanent solution can be found.”