It's official! Ventnor's Eastern Esplanade has reopened

Published: 24 May 2024

Eastern Esplanade

Eighteen months after violent storms caused a 35-metre section of Ventnor's Eastern Esplanade to collapse into the sea, people were today (Friday) enjoying their first stroll along the newly reopened promenade.  

The safety barriers which have secured the site since November 2022 were taken down this afternoon, restoring an important coastal route between Ventnor and Bonchurch, popular with both walkers and cyclists alike.

It marked the end of a successful 12 month project which has seen the Isle of Wight Council invest £4.8 million of government funding into new sea defences, protecting homes and businesses for years to come.

Natasha Dix, the council's strategic director for environment and planning, said: "As a local resident, raised in Ventnor, I know just how important this coastal route is to the local community and particularly to businesses in the area.

"I visited the site shortly after we were forced to close it for public safety and was shocked at the extent of the damage. There was extensive voiding under the revetment with large, heavy concrete slabs seeming floating in mid-air due to undermining by the high tides and ferocious storm surges.

"Our early drone footage revealed a horror show of rusting piles and crumbling concreate requiring us to construct a whole new sea wall. It was a huge job made all the more challenging by the exposed nature of the site and the relentless storms which battered the Island.

"Once again, I would like to thank the local community not only for their patience and understanding during these important works, but also their support. I would also like to thank our specialist contractors, Mackley, the Environment Agency, Ventnor Town Council, Island Roads, Southern Water, Jacobs and Coastal Partners for all their support in delivering this extraordinary repair in such a short time frame."

The works which began in May last year involved piling more than 150 'king posts' into the foreshore, which were then backfilled and capped with concrete to encapsulate the rusting sheet piles.

Paul Nutter, contracts manager at Mackley, said: “We are extremely pleased to have reached this milestone and thank the public for their support and patience.

"We have been faced with some complex problems in a challenging environment, and I am extremely proud of the commitment the entire site team has made, enduring 13 named storms in one season.

"But this could not have been achieved alone; this has been a real team effort from all those involved at the Isle of Wight Council, Coastal Partners, and Jacobs, to name a few.”

Allen Best, of Besty and Spinkys Café Bar on Eastern Esplanade, said: “The reopening of the revetment is absolutely crucial to our business.

"Being the only flat, dry walk in Ventnor, it is a vital attraction to visitors and locals alike. We recently won The Island’s Best Café award and part of our charm is our location near some of the best walking routes on the Island.

"Popping into our café after a jaunt is a draw for so many of our customers and I can’t wait to see more of them soon!”

Councillor Steph Toogood, deputy mayor, said: "Ventnor Town Council is delighted that the valuable coastal link (revetment) between Ventnor and Bonchurch is now open.

"The town appreciate the planning and teamwork that will enable tourists and locals, young and old especially with their canine friends to enjoy this flat coastal walk.

"The town council is grateful to have this popular route open for the busy tourist season."

The project has been shortlisted as a finalist in the 'Integration and Collaborative Working' category in this year's Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards 2024. It is also eligible for a People's Choice Award which is decided by a public vote.

To cast your vote, please visit the SECBE Awards website and scroll to the bottom where you'll find a voting button.

Councillor Paul Fuller, Cabinet member for planning, coastal protection and flooding, added: "I know Ventnor is facing some major challenges at the moment, but the reopening of Eastern Esplanade is a step in the right direction.

"Ahead of the bank holiday weekend and with summer on the horizon, I would like to send out a clear message that Ventnor is very much open for business.

"If you're an Islander, please come and rediscover this beautiful seaside resort right on your doorstep. If you're a visitor, make sure Ventnor, famed for its micro climate and glorious views, is at the top of your itinerary.

"With its beautiful shingle beach, eclectic mix of vintage shops, antique stores and galleries, outstanding eateries and, of course, its rich artistic heritage, Ventnor really is the place to be."

Contactors have a few small remaining tasks to complete next week before they start removing their site cabins and equipment from Monday, 3 June.

This will take around five days and require some lorry movements within the Eastern Esplanade car park.