A MAJOR route to the north of Ilminster is likely to remain closed until at least Christmas, it has emerged this week.

New Road, known as Cemetery Hill, was closed in mid-February amid fears it could fall down a slope when large cracks appeared in a 70- metre section.

Somerset County Council initially said it was hard to say when the road would re-open but the News’ now believes it could be around Christmas before barriers come down.

Ilton Parish Council chairman David Amor said that after several weeks of calling for answers he received a note from one of the council’s highways bosses, Mike Fear.

It said: “Cracks in the road have now been sealed to stop ingress of water and a full CCTV survey of the drainage system completed.

“Contractors will shortly undertake stage one investigation and option study. Design and construction will follow stage one. It is likely that the road will remain closed for up to nine months.”

Cllr Amor said he felt Somerset County Council was not doing anything.

He added: “It is a nightmare for people and it makes you wonder whether it is worth going to Ilminster anymore when it’s as easy to get to Taunton.”

About 250 people signed a petition launched by the News that called on the council to fix the road as soon as possible.

Retired teacher Ann Leontovitsch, who lives with her husband next to the cracked section of road, said the saga had been a farce. She said: “I am not surprised it will take so long – we try endlessly to get hold of the council and email them but we can’t get any sensible information from them.

“They [the council] should have acted quickly when we first reported the problem and they should be keeping people much more informed. They are presuming it does not matter.”

Other residents on the Beacon who can still access Ilminster say the road closure has made the route much quieter, which they were happy about.

But MP David Laws said: “I am frustrated that it seems to be taking Somerset County Council so long to deal with the problems on this major road.

“I have written to the county council twice about the matter, pressing for both short-term and medium-term actions to help local residents and get the road back to normal.

“I will be talking to the county council this week to press for an action plan and better communications with local residents.”

Ilminster’s county council representative, Linda Vijeh, said it was not a simple job but would expect people to have a clear timescale for any works to be carried out, along with regular updates.

Town councillor Philip Burton added: “We want to be sure that Highways are making the right decisions for the people who live on New Road and their homes.”

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: “The investigation remains on-going. We are working hard to re-open this road as soon as it is safe to do so but unfortunately due to the severity of the problem it could remain closed for some time.”