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The future of the Military Road

Road through Compton Bay and Downs, Isle of Wight
Road through Compton Bay and Downs | © National Trust Images/John Miller

We know how important the Military Road is to the Isle of Wight and the people that live and visit here. As one of the land owners adjacent to the road, we are working with various third-parties and looking at all possible ways forward.

How is the National Trust involved?

The National Trust operates substantial assets along the Military Road, including five car parks and two holiday cottages. We fully recognise and appreciate the significance of the road to the Island, its residents, visitors and indeed to our own organisation and tenants.

We have been working directly with the Isle of Wight Council, National Landscapes (formerly AONB), Natural England and other agencies for several years to consider the options for the future of the road. We are a landowner along part of the route and the decision as to the future of the road remains with the Isle of Wight Council as the elected representative and government body. The road is a public highway and the National Trust is not a statutory, government-funded or direct decision-making body on this issue.

Compton Bay and Downs, Isle of Wight
Compton Bay and Downs | © National Trust Images/John Miller

What are the constraints?

We have been considering all possible options that fall within our remit to preserve the future of the road. Due to previous legal cases, national designations, the topography and geology of the area, the impact of severe weather events and climate change, these options are limited. Any rerouting of the road will be expensive and the road is threatened at multiple locations along its route.

This stretch of coastline falls under several nationally and internationally recognised designations, including Heritage Coast and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, amongst others, which also bring their own constraints. The government’s own Shoreline Management Plan designates this stretch of the coastline as an area for non-intervention. We have recently received planning permission to improve the car park at Compton Bay. This will see huge improvements to the toilet facilities, which will be relocatable, and a redesign of the car park to improve access and cater for the rapidly forming chine.

Looking to the future

The National Trust does not seek to see this iconic stretch of road closed prematurely and we are not advocating for that outcome. The decision on the way ahead is complex and involves multiple stakeholders and decision makers. There must be a pragmatic approach due to the limited funding available to the Isle of Wight Council and any additional funding for this road may come at the expense of other budgets.

We will continue to work proactively with the Council and others to consider all solutions.

Looking along the cliff at Compton Bay. Yellow wild flowers are in the foreground, growing on the cliff top
Looking along the cliff at Compton Bay | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish
Family on the beach at Compton Bay, Isle of Wight, are reflected in the wet sand near the edge of the sea

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