Fears for homes at Cove following more landslides

Houses are just 10ft away from the subsidence at Cove Harbour.
Houses are just 10ft away from the subsidence at Cove Harbour.

Concerned Cove residents say that falling earth is “too close for comfort” with landslips in the area getting progressively worse.

Heavy rain and strong winds caused land to slide from cliffs above Cove in December 2009, and with the banking yet to be secured, and more land coming away all the time, residents are worried.

David Arnott of Cockburnspath and Cove Community Council said: “We first noticed it a year past December. There had been a lot of wind and a lot of rain and land fell onto the road that leads to the car park.

“The council began work to secure the banking at the end of last year, but part way through the work the face of the cliff started to move when the guys were down there and they were pulled off until it was safe to continue.”

Mr Arnott said the situation is “potentially very hazardous” because more land is regularly falling from the cliffs.

“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.”

Earth and debris is falling from the hillside so often that Mr Arnott is in regular contact with SBC to keep them updated about the extent of the problem.

An SBC spokesman confirmed that emergency landslip remedial works, which started last year on the slope below the access road into Cove, were suspended because workers were at “serious risk”.

Work that started last November is said to have been affected by the extreme weather conditions throughout December, and the council say the snowmelt that followed caused “unprecedented problems” during the works, and led to further slippages.

“A decision was made to cease the slope works short of full implementation due to the serious health and safety risks posed to the personnel working on the slope,” the spokesman said, adding: “The remaining half of the slope that continues to slip will be monitored and the situation reviewed in the summer.”

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 think any of us have any complaints about the way SBC are handling things, but it is a worry. You can see slippages right along the coast from here.”

The wooden access steps which lead to Cove Harbour have also been damaged by the sliding land, and have subsequently been closed by SBC “as a matter of safety”. But residents have been alarmed to see visitors climbing over the locked gate and going down to the harbour via the cliff side. Dorothy Swanston, of Orwell Cottage, Cove, said: “I am seeing visitors of all ages climbing over the gate and fences to reach the road down to our jewel of a harbour because there is no longer any safe means of access.”

But Benjamin Tindall, who owns the harbour, explained that it would be extremely difficult to repair the steps just now because the ground is so wet.

Speaking to The Berwickshire News, Mr Tindall said: “Scottish Borders Council are being very helpful and have said that they have found funds to repair the steps as soon as possible, probably in April.”