Work to ‘anchor’ Castle Sands starts next week

Castle Sands
Castle Sands

A long-awaited £55,000 project involving the stabilisation of the cliffs above the Castle Sands beach in St Andrews is due to get underway next week.

The works’ programme has suffered numerous delays in the past owing to contractural difficulties, which has seen the popular beach closed off to the public since April of 2011.

The smallest of the town’s beaches - a favourite haunt of students and the venue for the traditional May Dip and a haven for bonfire night celebrations - it was declared out of bounds by Fife Council following a landslide and amid fears that further erosion was possible.

On several occasions since, Fife Council intimated that the remedial work was imminent, only for it to be deferred each time.

Officials blamed the complexity of the project and the works being within a conservation area, while specifications were adjusted and there is only a limited number of contractors that can carry out the repair work. As a consequence, the tender period was also extended.

Mark Dewar, service manager of roads design and construction, in the local authority’s transportation and environmental services, said: ”QTS, a Lanarkshire-based contractor, has been appointed and they have intimated that they are hopeful of commencing on site next week and would anticipate that works will take up to three weeks to complete.”

The landslip 19 months ago 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.

The 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.

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.

The contract will involve rock anchoring and embankment stabilisation at the site.

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

St Andrews councillor, Brian Thomson, said yesterday: ”The commencement of the works cannot come soon enough, given that the Castle Sands is such a popular spot for locals and visitors alike.”