VIEWS are being sought from the public on a Radnorshire beauty spot that has been closed to the public for more than two years.
Access to the spectacular Devil’s Gulch, close to the Pen y Garreg Reservoir in the gorgeous Elan Valley, has been prohibited since November 2018 due to rockfall which made it impassable – and has led to estimations repair work could cost in excess of £1 million.
And while local walkers have been denied access to a stunning segment of the Elan Valley Trail, the “extremely unstable” condition of the rock face has led to the Welsh Government deciding to keep the path closed for a further six months.
In the meantime, Welsh Water, which manages the Elan Valley Estate, will hold two information and engagement sessions virtually next week which members of the public are being invited to attend.
They will present options being considered for the future of Devil’s Gulch, which has become unstable on both sides since the original fall on November 4, 2018. Since then, four further 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.
Due to current Covid-19 restrictions, Welsh Water will present options being considered via Microsoft Teams on Wednesday, February 10, between 1.30-2.30pm, and on Thursday, February 11, between 2.30-3.30pm.
Alun Shurmer, Welsh Water’s director of customer strategy and engagement, said: “We appreciate the inconvenience that 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.
“We have looked at many options but would like to hear the views of local stakeholders and community to see if there are any alternatives that we should consider and to outline the work that we have undertaken to date to find a solution to this very challenging issue.”
Proposals put forward so far would each cost more than £1m and the not-for-profit company is stressing these costs far outweigh any funding currently available. Welsh Water are keen to explore any external funding avenues and have already come up with some options.
The long-term solutions proposed for the Gulch are:
• Pin and net the rock faces on either side of the Gulch
• To 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
• Create a diversion route avoiding the Gulch around the nearby Pen y Garreg reservoir
While the extended closure notice is in place, Welsh Water say they are also looking at possible temporary diversion routes within the estate and are liaising with Powys Council (PCC) on these options. A key priority is to address the concerns expressed around use of the county road as an alternative route.
Councillor Heulwen Hulme, PCC cabinet member for countryside services, said: “Being such a popular route within a beauty spot visited by many residents and visitors each year, we would urge you all to make your views known.
“The council are working closely with Welsh Water to identify solutions in the short and long term. Currently, attentions are focused on alleviating the immediate concerns around the use of the road as the alternative route.
“We understand and appreciate the inconvenience this closure has caused, however, as the health and safety of all our users is paramount, this needs to remain in place until a permanent solution can be found and implemented.”
Anyone who would like to join one of next week’s sessions should email Rangers.Elan@dwrcymru.com to reserve a place.
Alternatively, information on the options can be found at elanvalley.org.uk and comments should be submitted by email to Rangers.Elan@dwrcymru.com by the end of February.