Flood-damaged road to remain closed for foreseeable future
The B478 Playhatch Road between the A4155 Henley Road and the Sonning Eye roundabout has been officially shut to traffic since 2 February because of recent flooding and the subsequent damage that this has caused to the road, making it potentially dangerous for public use.
Drivers ignoring 'road closed' signage
Some drivers had been barging through previous road closure signage, with reports of one 4x4 vehicle with children on-board having to be rescued after sliding down the embankment.
Flood water levels have gone down, however they are still too high presently for the county council to be able to carry out a structural survey on the road to assess what remedial work will be required and fully understand the length of time that the road will need to be closed for.
When water levels fall more work will be done along Spring Lane off Playhatch Road to enable light traffic to pass the closure in an easterly direction to help alleviate some of the problem.
Cracks that have appeared in the surface of Playhatch Road are likely to be because of erosion. It is also likely that the road's foundations are flooded.
A complex situation
Councillor Rodney Rose, Oxfordshire County Council's Deputy Leader, said: "Flooding caused the closure of many roads in the county which resulted in inconvenience for scores of motorists.
"The B478 Playhatch Road is a complex situation with water levels still being too high for an investigation of how the flooding has affected the road's structure. When water levels go down more we will be able to assess the effect of floodwater on the foundations of the highway.
"Some drivers have ignored the road closure signage, and there was a report of one vehicle having to be rescued. Fencing will be installed to prevent motorists accessing this stretch of road.
"When water levels subside further more work will be done along Spring Lane to allow traffic in an easterly direction to bypass the road closure. HGVs would still be restricted by weight limits at Sonning Bridge."
Locals were informed about the road's closure at the beginning of last month and messages have been put out to the press, on the county council website and via social media since then about the situation, as well as to businesses. Information about the installation of fencing today has also been given out.
Councillor Rose said: "We have been in dialogue with local businesses and residents about the road closure as well as local media and via social media and our website. We understand that it is a frustrating time with the closure of the road, however the nature of the problems the flooding has caused has meant that unfortunately there is no quick answer.
"Our engineers believe at the moment before they are able to inspect the road that it may have to be re-built, along with the supporting embankment. We believe water erosion could result in sections of the road collapsing. Ultimately, the main priority for us is to ensure the continued safety of the road."
No timeframe for road to re-open
Councillor Rose added: "I hope that the required work will be fast-tracked, but until investigations can be undertaken to identify the extent of the damage to foundations there is no timeframe about when the road could re-open.
"I would like to thank motorists, businesses and residents for their patience, however we are doing the best that we can to deal with a very difficult situation which was brought about because of recent flooding."
Drivers who may damage their vehicles by using the closed section of Playhatch Road may find that their insurance companies would not cover any associated costs.
The council has authorised controlled access for Thames Water to carry out essential pumping at the sewage station.