The A379 coast road is planned to be closed for three months from next week, with Stoke Fleming parish council warning residents and commuters about the likelihood of three months of “chaos”.

The closure will affect the road along Start Bay and could cause severe disruption to residents in villages such as Strete, Slapton, Torcross, Stokenham and Chillington as well as in Stoke Fleming.

It has been authorised by the Devon County Council Highways department to rebuild a high stone wall in the centre of the village that had to be taken down a year ago, because it was considered unsafe.

The contractor appointed to do the work said the narrowness of the road as it passes through the village means that a total closure is unavoidable.

Devon County Council Highways have designated a 27-mile route from the north end of Stoke Fleming to Totnes Cross, Kingsbridge, Torcross and Strete as the official diversion on the grounds that when an A-road is closed any diversion must be on the same class of roads so that large vehicles are able to use it.

They also say that it is not possible for them to authorise any diversions onto secondary roads to enable local traffic to avoid the closure. Residents in Stoke Fleming and the parish council say members of the public will attempt to find their own shortcuts around the obstruction and will lead to chaos unless these local routes are properly planned.

When the road was closed a year ago to allow the wall to be taken down, there were severe difficulties both in the village and the surrounding rural lanes. With traffic brought to a standstill and heated arguments between motorists.

One resident said: “I found myself caught up in jam on the lane between Embridge Cross at the top of Blackpool Valley and Venn Cross, with about 20 vehicles heading in each direction and many drivers clearly not knowing how to reverse.

“As they struggled to extricate themselves more and more cars joined the tail of the queues. It was a complete nightmare.”

Following a meeting in Stoke Fleming Village Hall last week organised by the parish council at short notice. It was agreed that advice on the preferred alternative routes would be drawn up and circulated within the area that will be affected in the hope of minimising disruption.

Cllr Struan Coupar, of Stoke Fleming parish council, said: “Devon County Council Highways have advised us that when they have closed an A-class road official diversions must be confined to roads in that category.

“That means that the official diversion will take traffic on a 27-mile detour from the northern edge of Stoke Fleming to Townstal, Totnes Cross/Halwell, Kingsbridge, Torcross and Strete to reach the southern edge of the village. People will undoubtedly try and find their own shorter routes, but Highways say they cannot provide signs for alternative routes on secondary roads and lanes. That means the disruption this time could be many times worse.

“We want to try and ensure that everyone in the area between Dartmouth and Kingsbridge is aware of what is going to happen and what they can do to help mitigate the problems that will arise.”

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