N Yorks Coast And Whitby Landslips – what a record!

  • With days of torrential rain forecast to sweep the country over the Christmas holiday period, John Henderson analyses the warning signs of vulnerability that Scarborough Borough Council has been struggling to brush under the carpet for thirty years.

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LANDSLIPS within the Borough of Scarborough in recent times

– by John Henderson

Aelfleda Terrace, Henrietta Street, Knipe Point, Scarborough Spa, Holbeck Hall, Castle Holms, Martin’s Ravine, to name but a few – these are some of the places in the Borough that have suffered landslips of significant magnitude in the recent past – the places named extend  from Whitby in the North to Filey in the South.

It seems that the Borough has quite a history with land that is ‘unstable’, and I’ve been looking at some of the press reports over the years about this very issue. I’ve taken what I think are the key points from some of those reports and collated them here for your convenience. Links are also given so that you can view these articles in their entirety (assuming they remain online with the original publishers).

From WHITBY we see these reports:

Landslip fears– published on Tuesday 14 September 2004 14:04

  • ACTION needs to be taken to prevent a potential landslip disaster on the East Side of Whitby, a town councillor claims.
  • Coun Tom Brown believes it is only a matter of time before the already subsiding land at Boulby Bank Top crashes down the bank
  • He blames the land shift on a water build-up caused when Scarborough Council installed the car park in Abbey Fields in 1997
  • John Riby, Scarborough Council’s head of engineering and procurement services, said: “I am not aware of any correspondence from Coun Brown but will certainly respond to any letter he sends and, if he prefers, would be happy to meet with him to go through the issues.
  • “The car park at Abbey Fields is positively drained and we don’t believe at this stage that it is contributing to any problems. However we take on board Coun Brown’s comments and will carry out an investigation as soon as possible.

Landslips at Pavilion lead to demolition plan for wall – published on Tuesday 2 June 2009 14:12

  • TWO stretches of wall at Whitby Pavilion are to be demolished and rebuilt after landslips at the venue.
  • In the report it says concerns over cracking in the brick walls were raised with the council which undertook an investigation into the issue, near the slope leading to the beach. It says: “This site has a history of slope instability and in two locations the slips have now undermined the walls shallow strip foundation, resulting in rotation and cracking of the wall.
  • “Stability issues are exacerbated to a degree by the loading from the parked cars using the spaces.
  • “This could, if allowed to deteriorate lead to further slope failure and a localised collapse of the boundary wall. The areas have been made safe by way of installing temporary barriers.”

Whitby visitors wake to landslip horror – published on Monday 22 February 2010 10:50

  • A COUPLE on holiday in Whitby had a lucky escape when a landslide at their holiday cottage occurred while they slept.
  • A whole section of a balcony and a cliff in Whitby gave way after the extreme weather over the weekend.

Grant to protect future of Whitby coast  – published on Thursday 20 May 2010 14:17

  • MORE than £70,000 has been made available to secure the continuation of a coastal monitoring project in the Whitby area.
  • The Environment Agency has approved a grant for 74,000 to enable Scarborough Council to repair broken monitoring equipment along the coastline.
  • … The programme is designed to monitor coastal defences along the authority’s 68km coast line and provide warning of potentially damaging ground movements.
  • … John Riby, head of Technical Services, said: “The monitoring programme has provided enough information and data to support the reinstatement of damaged monitoring equipment.
  • “Following the high quality data this project has produced, additional funding was sort and approved.
  • “Continued monitoring will identify current and potential risks associated with any ground movement at a number of sites, allowing a series of early warning signs and trigger levels to be developed.”
  • The three-year monitoring programme is being carried out at Runswick Bay, Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay, Scalby Ness, Scarborough North Bay, Scarborough South Bay, Knipe Point, Filey and Filey Flat Cliffs.
  • Monthly monitoring activity include site walks, inclinometer/piezometer readings, recession point monitoring, rainfall data collection and crack monitoring.

Abbey car park escapes probe – Published on Friday 14 December 2012 08:15

  • THE ABBEY car park is not set to feature in the investigations into the aftermath of the landslip at Aelfleda terrace.
  • Residents who have lived in the area for years believe part of the problem may lie with the Abbey Headland car park which was constructed on the site of run off ponds.
  • The car park surface is now sending excess water in a different direction – the direction of Aelfleda Terrace.
  • But, at the moment, Yorkshire Water is saying the car park does not form any part of its investigation into the circumstances which have led to homes being demolished because a landslip has condemned them as unsafe.

henrietta_street

 

From SCARBOROUGH – the town made internationally famous by the landslip in 1993; Holbeck Hall.

Work starts on landslip damage – published on Friday 8 December 2000

  • COUNCIL officials have revealed that they will spend £300,000 on the first stage of work to stabilise the cliffs in North Bay following a series of major landslips last month.
  • COUNCIL officials have revealed that they will spend 300,000 on the first stage of work to stabilise the cliffs in North Bay following a series of major landslips last month.

Fears of landslip scupper land sale – published on Thursday 1 March 2001

  • POTENTIAL developers of a prime site on Scarborough seafront have been put off by concerns over land stability. Only one of 70 would-be developers or users expressed a serious interest in the Windmill site alongside Olympia Leisure and below the Grand Hotel, but their interest came to nothing.

  • The derelict site was put up for sale by the council in November and councillors had hoped that a buyer could be found so it could be redeveloped in time for the coming summer season, but they failed to attract any bids.

  • A survey carried out in 1994 highlighted concerns about slope safety.

Landslip damage: £100,000 bill? – Published on Thursday 13 December 2007 12:41

  • THE bill for repairing damage from a major landslide behind the Spa could reach as much as £100,000.

  • The problem was caused last month when thousands of gallons of water cascaded down the cliffs from a burst water pipe.

Insurance fund cash for landslip – published on Wednesday 19 December 2007 09:43

UP TO £85,000 from Scar-borough Council’s Insurance Fund could be spent on repairing damage from a major landslide behind the Spa after the move was approved by councillors.

Homes on edge – published on Thursday 3 April 2008 08:26

  • A LANDSLIP has brought houses dangerously close to a cliff edge – sparking fears it will cause another Holbeck Hall Hotel disaster.
  • Residents have been evacuated from bungalows at Knipe Point after their rear gardens disappeared down the cliff face, which looks out on to Cayton Bay.
  • Huge cracks have begun to form in woodland below the private residential area and large pools of water are visible creating bogs in some of the surrounding land.

Developers urged to do more to cut flooding risk – published on Tuesday 9 September 2008

  • SCARBOROUGH Council wants to see more responsibility placed on developers in a bid to reduce the risk of future flooding.
  • Responding to the Government’s Pitt Review, the council’s head of technical services John Riby said the borough’s main flood risk came from small watercourses and the run-off from agricultural land which overwhelms the drainage system under certain storm conditions.
  • A task group will now be set up to ensure a proactive approach is taken to flooding issues across the borough.”

Cash for probe into Spa landslip – published on Monday 21 July 2008 11:05

  • THREE quarters of the money set aside to pay for the repair of damage caused by a landslide behind the Spa Complex last year will be paid to a specialist consultant if council chiefs give the go-ahead today.

  • A report by Scarborough Council’s head of technical services, John Riby, says only 24,388.11 will be left of the original 100,000 allocated for the work after the landslip was discovered by a member of the public in November last year.

£70,000 grant to continue coastal project – published on Tuesday 11 May 2010 16:21

  • MORE than £70,000 has been made available to secure the continuation of a coastal monitoring project in Scarborough.
  • The three-year monitoring programme is being carried out at Runswick Bay, Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay, Scalby Ness, Scarborough North Bay, Scarborough South Bay, Knipe Point, Filey and Filey Flat Cliffs.
  • Monthly monitoring activity include site walks, inclinometer/piezometer readings, recession point monitoring, rainfall data collection and crack monitoring.

  • The project is being carried out by outside agent Mouchel, which after each monitoring event provides the council with a report which compares the most recent data with historical data that has been recorded.
  • The report highlights any changes that have been discovered and makes recommendations for future monitoring.

  • However a 10mm cliff recession and a small landslip was recorded at Scalby Ness as well as slight movement in two of the four inclinometers at Runswick Bay, a “standard surface creep” of -7mm at Whitby West Cliff, and footpath cracks and increased water readings at Scarborough South Cliff.
  • As a result, increased monitoring has been recommended for areas of concern, while monitoring at more stable areas will be reduced.

knipe_point

From FILEY we have the following:

One year on: The day that residents won’t forget-published on Monday 21 July 2008 17:44

  • JULY 18 2007 is a date few people in Filey will forget – when the heavens opened and dumped 82mm of rain on the town in just 90 minutes. Streets quickly turned into rivers and water-sodden cliffs collapsed in the deluge.

New landslip set to close old road– published on Wednesday 24 February 2010 12:22

  • A DRAMATIC new landslip above Cayton Bay will lead to the permanent closure of part of the old Filey Road.

Landslip site probe to continue – published on Tuesday 22 June 2010 16:25

  • FILEY’S Crescent Hill, where concerns have been raised about subsidence, will continue to be monitored but there will be no new investigation in the foreseeable future.

martins_ravine

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As you can see from the excerpts from the articles above, there have been a considerable number of landslips throughout the Borough over recent years. There have been many reports on this issue, certainly as far back as 1994, as evidenced by the report related to the land near the Grand Hotel in Scarborough.

Also, reports show that Scarborough Borough Council has been operating a scheme that monitors any land slippage, or terrain changes, and produces regular reports on these.

It also turns out that North Yorkshire County Council appears to carry out similar functions, because in the article “New Landslip set to Close Road” in the Filey Mercury (above), Cllr Godfrey Allanson is mentioned in the article in the following quote:

  • “Cllr Allanson, who represents the Hertford ward on Scarborough Council, said: “I wasn’t surprised because we were briefed by the county many years ago about the possibility of cliff slips. That’s why I have always supported the bypass.”

So the reader is left to understand the following:

1) SBC and NYCC have both at some point reached the conclusion that landslips in the Borough are likely and do happen.

2) That SBC has been given money to monitor these events and is, or was, actively monitoring them

3) That at least one Councillor of SBC had been made aware “many years ago” about slips that could affect the Borough.

4) That landslips, damage to buildings, and the attendant danger to life and property in the area as a result, has been going on for quite some time.

From an article published in 2010, citing the Mouchel Report (dated January 2010) that the following was reported in the Scarborough Evening News:

  • “However a 10mm cliff recession and a small landslip was recorded at Scalby Ness as well as slight movement in two of the four inclinometers at Runswick Bay, a “standard surface creep” of -7mm at Whitby West Cliff, and footpath cracks and increased water readings at Scarborough South Cliff.”
  • “As a result, increased monitoring has been recommended for areas of concern, while monitoring at more stable areas will be reduced.”

So, in 2010, increased monitoring was recommended for areas of special concern.

A most interesting statement comes from the former Scarborough Evening News. Published on 10 March 2008, the title being: Scarborough’s long history with earth tremors“.

The article discusses the fact that Britain has around 200 earthquakes a year, and about 25 of these are strong enough to be felt. Scarborough gets its fair share of quakes. There is a fault under the sea off the coast of North Yorkshire that causes small tremors quite regularly by British standards, which generally are not felt.

The article then finishes off by stating:

  • “But as we all know, Scarborough’s cliffs are notoriously unstable…”

This then begs the question:

  • WHAT IS BEING DONE ABOUT THIS?

I think we should be told.

It’s common knowledge that the cliffs from Filey to Staithes are notoriously unstable; landslips are a common occurrence, particularly in exceptional wet weather (as we have recently endured) and the drainage system is tested to the limit – and beyond.

Why aren’t the Council more forthcoming with the data that they are supposed to have gathered, related to the monitoring of the ground we live and work on? It would seem appropriate that the Council share its findings with the public on any issues they might know about. After all, it is the public who are paying for all of their salaries. Or, more importantly we perhaps should be asking, where is the money?

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