A £55,000 month-long project which will involve the stabilisation of the cliffs above a popular St Andrews beach is set to get underway.
The Castle Sands - the smallest of the town’s beaches located under the cliffs at St Andrews Castle - have been closed to the public for around a year following a landslide and amid fears that further erosion was possible.
The landslip last April was the second in recent years and was blamed on a sustained period of heavy rain. In 2008 a significant fall of grass and soil also caused the beach to be declared out of bounds, although it reopened a short time later.
Since the latest incident, a safety fence has been in place along with warning signs following concerns that parts of the cliff face could be unstable. It was feared that a rotational slip failure was possible and could extend into the road above, putting pedestrians and vehicles at risk.
Fife Council appointed a specialist geotechnical consultant to investigate the stability of the ground area at the top of the slope. The probe also involved a survey and engineering assessment relating to the stability of part of the carriageway.
In particular, engineers were requested to provide details of any possible structural failure beneath the East Scores carriageway and footway and whether the road should remain open.
However, there was no evidence of cracking or distress in the road above the slip and an assessment of present and long-term stability of the cliff face and the road revealed that the rock strata in the cliff line appeared to have a relatively stable configuration.
The experts concluded that the existing slip was a small-scale feature, possibly triggered by water from the gully channel running into the top of it and did not indicate immediate widespread instability of the slope and road.
Although the closure of the road was not thought to be necessary, engineers stated the existing minor slip may propagate as the exposed material weathers and softens and, consequently, the long-term stability of the slope and overlying road could not be guaranted and some form of “remediation” was required, while regular monitoring was necessary.
Sara Wilson, a Fife Council technician engineer, said:“I expect the works will start at the end of April. The project will last around four weeks and involve rock anchoring and embankment stabilisation. I expect the beach to be open to the public by the end of May.”
The sands is reached from the East Scores roadway by a steep footpath and also features an old salt water swimming pool.