New Year repair work planned for St Andrews beach erosion

Castle Sands
Castle Sands

A popular beach in St Andrews is to remain closed to the public until at least next spring to allow stabilisation work to be carried out on the cliffs above.

The Castle Sands - the smallest of the beaches in the town located under the cliffs at St Andrews Castle - was forced to close in April following a landslide, with fears that further erosion was possible.

Now, following an investigation by a team of experts focusing on the stability of the cliffs, Fife Council say the beach will continue to be out of bounds until repairs are carried out.

The landslide in April was the second in recent years and was blamed on heavy rain. In 2008 a significant fall of grass and soil caused the beach to be closed, although it reopened a short time later.

Following the latest landslip a safety cordon was introduced amid worries 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. Members of the public were urged to stay away from the beach and fences and warning signs are still in place.

In a bid to secure a long-term solution, the council appointed a specialist geotechnical consultant to investigate the stability of the ground area at the top of the slope. The probe was conducted by the technical services unit of Soil Engineering, which is part of Vinci Construction, and involved a survey and engineering assessment relating to the stability of part of the carriageway.

In particular, engineers were requested to provide details on any possible structural failure beneath the East Scores carriageway and footway and whether the road should remain open to vehicles and pedestrians.

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 road revealed that the rock strata in the cliff line appears to have a relatively stable configuration.

The report said: ”It is concluded that the existing slip is a small scale feature possibly triggered by water from the gully channel running into the top of it.

neer stated that the slip occurred after a period of heavy rain - and does not indicate immediate widespread instability of the slope and road.”

The report, noted, however, that although the closure of the road is not thought to be necessary, the existing minor slip may propagate as the exposed material weathers and softens.

Consequently, the long-term stability of the slope and overlying road cannot be guaranted and some form of ‘‘remediation’’ will be required.

It has also been recommended that the drainage of the road above the slope be investigated.

The report concluded that the current slip was a minor feature and did not present an immediate threat to the stability of East Scores. The footpath leading to the beach and the beach itself should, however, remain closed until remediation of the overlying slope had been carried out.

The spokesman added: ”The existing slope and road should be monitored on a regular basis to ensure that it is remaining stable until remediation is undertaken, It is also recommended that a limited amount of further drilling is carried out to assist with the formulation of the slope remediation.”

Sara Wilson, a Fife Council technician engineer, said: “We can’t give a definitive timescale, or any guarantees, but we’re aiming to have work completed by the end of March 2012.

“We need to procure a specialist contractor and we hope they’ll be able to start in the New Year. The work itself will probably last around four weeks and will involve rock anchoring and soil nailing to stabilise the embankment.”

Fife Councillor Robin Waterston said: ”The protracted closure of the Castle Beach is a disappointment to all who have taken pleasure in this little St Andrews gem. However, the technical survey confirms that significant remediation works are needed to ensure the stability of the embankment.

“The target should be to ensure that the beach can be reopened for the tourist season next summer, at the latest.”

The beach - a regular haunt for the town’s students - is reached from the East Scores roadway by a steep footpath and also features an old salt water swimming pool. It is believed there was a municipal dump at one time in the area.