Popular St Andrews beach is still out of bounds

Castle Sands
Castle Sands

A popular beach in St Andrews remains closed some six months after a landslide, amid fears that further erosion could be possible.

A report by a team of experts focusing on the stability of the cliffs above the Castle Sands is imminent, but the whole area still remains out of bounds as it is considered that a rotational slip failure is possible and could extend into the adopted road, putting pedestrians and vehicles at risk.

Following the landslip in April - it was blamed on heavy rain - a safety cordon was introduced following worries that parts of the cliff face could be unstable.

The decision was taken by Fife Council in the interests of public safety, with officials insisting the move was only temporary and that a “long-term solution” was being sought. Members of the public were urged to stay away from the beach and fences and warning signs are still in place.

George Miezitis, area roads services team leader with Fife Council’s transportation service, said: ”We have appointed a specialist geotechnical consultant to investigate the stability of the ground area at the top of the slope by the viewing point, and report back their recommendations to us so that we can respond accordingly.

“Once the report is received and we decide on what needs done, we should be able to give a timescale with regards to any protective or construction work required. The geotechnical report is expected before the end of October.”

He added that an inspection of the cliffs was conducted following a report earlier this year when it was noted that there may have been some embankment slippage which could potentially affect the stability of the carriageway and footpath, as well as the cliffs, in the vicinity of the viewing point.

Mr Miezitis added: ”A closer survey, including boreholes, was quickly carried out and a report on the findings recommended a detailed geotechnical survey to assess the extent of possible safety issues, and recommendations to resolve these, which we could then address.”

Initial reports highlighted possible instability of the cliff face at the top of the slope, but some historical information shows that there have been embankment slips there in the recent past.

Questioned about the safety of properties etc in the area, he added: ”Given the depth of the made ground, detected from the boreholes, and steepness of the slope, it is considered that a rotational slip failure is possible and that this could extend into the adopted road, putting pedestrians and vehicles at risk.”

A rotational slip or slide is when the surface of rupture is curved concavely upward and the slide movement is rotational about an axis that is parallel to the ground surface in the direction of the slide.

Local Fife Councillor Robin Waterston said: ”The Castle Beach is a much-loved part of the coastline and is popular throughout the year. It is disappointing that it has had to be closed for so long, but the banking is unstable, and so the temporary closure is necessary for public safety.”

He added that a report from a geotechnical consultant will give recommendations as to what the best solution is which will allow the council to prepare a plan.

Fellow Councillor Dorothea Morrison added: ”The closure has been disappointing for visitors and residents alike as it is such a sheltered little bay, but I would beg anyone tempted to cross the barriers onto the beach to stay away until appropriate safety measures can be put in place.

“The cliffs around this area of St Andrews are susceptible to subsidence and accident prevention is the prime concern of everyone involved.”

Castle Sands is the smallest of St Andrews’ beaches and is located under the cliffs of St Andrews Castle, reached from the road by a steep footpath adjacent to the rock formations which feature heavily from there to the harbour. There is also an old salt water swimming pool.

In the summer of 2008 a significant slide of grass and soil caused the beach to be fenced off, although it reopened a short time later.

It is believed there was a municipal dump at one time in the area.