FEARS that Cove residents could be cut off if the only access road becomes impassable because of regular landslides have prompted Scottish Borders Council to approve the spending of £95,000 from their emergency budget.
Following a landslip at Cove in January last year the council started work on a short term solution last November but poor weather and hazardous working conditions meant the work came to a stop in January this year without being completed. And when the snow finally melted it caused “unprecedented problems” and resulted in more slippages.
Monitoring of the slope has continued over recent months for signs of significant movement and at a meeting of the council’s executive on Tuesday, councillors were told: “There have been continued small slips adjacent to the middle part of the slope below an exisiting manhole. These small translational slips will eventually lead to the undermining of the existing redundant manhole and will be of more concern as they get closer to the edge of the road.”
And in a report to councillors, officers Paul Frankland and David Johnston said: “There is an urgency to get the project implemented to reduce the risk of further instability of the slope this winter.”
Now that councillors have approved the expenditure it is expected that the work will start as soon as possible and should be completed by December this year.
If nothing was to be done in the short term then future work to stabilise the slope would be more expensive and there was a possibility that the access road, which is immediatley above the affected slope could be at risk.
In an ideal world the long term solution suggested by geotechnical consultatns AECOM would be soil nailing or sheet piling but that is too expensive - re-routing the road, regrading the slope, drainage and covering with anchored mesh were also considered.
Instead councillors opted for extending the emergency works that had already been started and having them completed by November. This will involve installing filter drains on the surface of the slope, installing a surface retention and erosion protection system and putting down top soil and grass seed to encourage the rapid establishment of vegetation.
While these interim emergency works are carried out a more permanent solution will be designed and costed, the hope being that the proposed emergency works will be effective, giving the council a bit of breathing space before they have to look at paying out for a more costly project.
In the early summer David Arnott of Cockburnspath Community Council described the situation as “potentially very hazardous.”
“Some of the houses are at 90 degrees to the cliff face, others, are parallel,” he explained. “Those that are parallel are quite a bit away, about 30 yards, but the end one that is at 90 degrees to the cliff is too close for comfort.
“If that one goes there are another four that might go down like a pack of cards.”
Mr Arnott said that the worst area affected so far is the access road to the car park. “We can get through to the car park at the moment, but how long that will last I don’t know,” he said.
He added: “I don’t have any complaints about the way SBC are handling things, but it is a worry.”
The wooden access steps leading to Cove Harbour have also been damaged by the sliding land, and were closed by SBC.