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Coastal path close to collapse will stay shut for over a year


Closed: Blackhead Path

Closed: Blackhead Path

Closed: Blackhead Path

A hugely popular coastal path in Whitehead will remain closed to the public until December 2019 at the earliest, after an engineers' report revealed that it was on the brink of collapse.

Blackhead Path, which leads out to the headland and the lighthouse on the cliffs above, was closed to both vehicles and pedestrians by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council earlier this month following a spate of torrential rain which is thought to have weakened it.

Further subsidence was observed after more heavy rain.

During a public meeting on Thursday, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said it is working to fully restore and re-open the path, which was built by Berkeley Dean Wise who went on to construct the Gobbins Path.

The council's director of operations, Philip Thompson, outlined its plans for remedial works at the site.

"We want to get the path open as soon as possible ourselves and once we go through the regulatory process we obviously then have to go through the procurement process," he said.

"We are spending a significant sum of money here, local ratepayers' money, and we obviously need to go through a procurement process that will secure best value in terms of the work that will be completed.

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"We would like to think that subject to full council approval and all the necessary regulatory approvals and procurement, we would hope to be on site by March of next year."

Residents attending the meeting heard that if work starts by April 2019 then the first new section of path could be completed by December 2019.

The meeting was organised by the Blackhead Path Preservation Society, which has been formed amid concerns over the length of time the path has been closed and the detrimental effect on tourism and the local economy. It has also expressed concerns about the potential impact of the closure of the path - which attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year - on the town.

Group member Jo Nixon said it must put pressure on the council to make sure the work is done, adding that she believed the council is "committed to fixing it" and its job is to "push them and to make sure that it's done as quickly as possible".

A recent inspection report found that the path has moved 30cms in the last year and 17cms in the last month.

Large cracks have also been identified along the path wall.

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