Cliff fall road in Seaton will not re-open
An East Devon coastal road closed by a cliff fall during heavy rainfall in the Summer will not re-open, Devon County Council has confirmed.
Old Beer Road in Seaton has been closed since 12 July after a 25 metre section of the road fell away by around three metres.
A geotechnical report was carried out earlier this year by Devon based experts Frederick Sherrell Ltd.
Its findings suggest that the collapse was triggered by the prolonged rainfall, saturating the weathered mudstone and leading to a “block” failure.
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It also advises that further slippage is likely to occur in the near future.
The slip is just 3.5 metres away from the coastal footpath and the report recommends that the footway should remain closed to the public.
The report states that, “further slippage is likely to occur at this location in the near future possibly extending back towards the footpath on the northern side of the road.”
Safeguarding the existing footpath has been considered through the installation of ground anchors, but this would not prevent future cliff falls and would eventually come under threat.
Consideration was also given to the safety of contractors engaged to undertake any works and it was concluded that the risks could be too great.
The County Council has also ruled out constructing a bridge over the current slip as it is not considered practical, safe or affordable. The potential for erosion would threaten any new structure at the location and the report states that it would be “extremely difficult to build and might have a limited lifespan due to the potential for further slippage elsewhere along Old Beer Road.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said:
“The report makes it very clear that there is a high risk of further failure in this locality. It’s unfortunate that we have to make this difficult decision but the fragile geological conditions exposed by the extreme weather that we’ve suffered this Summer means that it is the most pragmatic option.
“A further collapse could even be caused by the extensive engineering works required to install any new structure. The cost of establishing a safe working site would far outweigh the engineering works required to protect the footpath. It just would not be responsible or in the interest of the safety of the public to re-open Old Beer Road.”
Councillor Jim Knight, Devon County Councillor for Seaton Coastal, said:
“I am very disappointed about the fact that we are unable to put a footpath through, but listening to the professionals and in the interests of public safety I feel I have no option but to agree with the measures that the County Council’s technical team have taken on this. Hopefully we can help by diverting the South West Coast Path to a more permanent location for the benefit of all.”
An option to divert the footway onto private property further inland away from the current cliff edge could be considered as a short term solution, but the viability and cost would depend on the landowners.
The County Council is currently arranging for a permanent fence to replace the existing temporary safety fence at Old Beer Road, and “no through road” and coast path diversion signs will be erected.
A smaller collapse, measuring around nine metres in length, occurred on Old Beer Road in 2001 to the west of the latest collapse. The remaining material from that minor slip, caused by slightly different geotechnical events, was left at a more natural angle of repose which left this section more stable and should only be affected by gradual erosion or in extremely saturated conditions.
The South Devon Shoreline Management Plan issues in June this year states that despite rock armour along the foot of the cliffs, the cliff face is expected to recede by up to 5 metres to 2015.