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Fears for Co Antrim path closed due to subsidence caused by 'years of under-investment'


Crumbling: Blackhead Path in Whitehead

Crumbling: Blackhead Path in Whitehead

Blackhead Lighthouse

Blackhead Lighthouse


Crumbling: Blackhead Path in Whitehead

The popular Blackhead Path in Whitehead has been closed after engineers reported that it is on the brink of collapse.

The path, which leads out to the headland and the lighthouse on the cliffs above, has been closed to both vehicles and pedestrians by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council following a spate of torrential rain which is thought to have weakened it.

Alliance councillor Robert Logan said the path - built by Berkeley Dean Wise who went on to construct the Gobbins Path - is hugely popular, attracting tens of thousands of visitors every year, and the current subsidence is a legacy of years of under-investment.

The new Blackhead Path Preservation Society has been formed amid concerns over the length of time that the path has been closed and the detrimental effect on tourism and the local economy, he added.

"Two residents on the path have been cut off amidst concerns by the council-employed consultant engineers that the vehicular access is in danger of collapse," Mr Logan said.

"They have said that the path is in such a poor state of repair that it is dangerous to drive cars over it as the path could collapse at any moment."

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said the first section of the entrance point to the path on the Old Castle Road is being shut with immediate effect.

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A spokesman said: "Further subsidence has been identified along the path, with council presented with no choice other than to prevent access to that part of the route until further notice.

"The additional damage may have been caused by extreme weather which hit Northern Ireland last weekend, resulting in a month of rainfall landing in the space of several hours on Saturday."

The path has moved 30cm in the last year and 17cm in the last month. Large cracks along the path wall have also been identified, indicating likely structural failure of the concrete wall and possible collapse.

The path was previously closed to vehicles and the latest move is to safeguard pedestrians.

The spokesman said: "The health and safety of our residents and visitors to our borough is paramount. We take no chances whatsoever when it comes to people's safety and wellbeing, and we have immediately closed access to this section of the path as a result.

"We are extremely keen to reopen the path so it can be enjoyed by our local community and tourists, but given the seriousness of the situation we must act in the appropriate way to protect life and ensure safety.

"We will be continuing to work closely with residents and the local community, including Blackhead Path Preservation Society, until this situation is rectified."

An area of the path around the lighthouse was closed a few years ago after severe rockfall and subsidence, and further storms have worsened the damage.

Fences and signs warning people of the risks were erected, but a small number of people ignored them, cutting away and damaging fence posts and locks.

The council warned that these actions pose serious risks to the perpetrators and wider general public should they access the path in its current state.

The spokesman added: "Substantial funding has already been set aside by council for major investment works at Blackhead Path. Council is currently engaged with a project team to design and oversee those remedial works."

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