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Eastern end of the closed footpath.

Closed Country Park footpath to be reopened this year

Full access to Ecclesbourne Glen in Hastings Country Park will finally be restored with the reopening of the main footpath later this year. But according to Save Ecclesbourne Glen group, the failure to investigate the causes of the landslip will make future monitoring of land stability more difficult. Report by Nick Terdre, photos by Russell Jacobs.

Work is due to begin on restoring the closed footpath in Ecclesbourne Glen in the autumn, according to Hastings Borough Council. It will undertake the task jointly with East Sussex County Council, which is responsible for footpaths. Reopening is expected to take place later this year.

The footpath is the lower of the two running through the glen – both were closed in 2013 after being destroyed by a landslip. “Specialist geotechnical engineers have now advised that the area is stable, meaning it is safe to be reopened to the public in the future,” said HBC.

Map showing the two closed footpaths, marked in red. The upper path, 379a, was reopened in 2019.

“We are so thrilled that this part of Ecclesbourne Glen is finally safe, and that we are able to start work on reopening this valuable and much-loved area,” said Cllr Maya Evans, the Environment lead.

“Geotechnical engineers have been regularly assessing the area, and we are delighted that they now consider it safe to reopen the footpaths. We know many residents will be excited to access the glen again in the near future.

“The county council will also be repairing a broken culvert on the coast path at the foot of the glen, and we are also hoping the restored main footpath will become part of the new England Coastal Path.”

Coastal path rerouted

Because the whole of Ecclesbourne Glen was closed off, Natural England rerouted this section of the proposed England Coastal Path around Rocklands caravan park. The upper footpath was reopened in late 2019 after the two councils decided the land was stable enough.

The area where the landslip occurred would continue to be monitored to ensure it stayed safe, Evans said.

News of the reopening of the lower path, and the return of the England Coastal Path to its natural route, was welcomed by Save Ecclesbourne Glen group. “Access to the glen is important for both locals and visitors alike,” it said. “We are pleased that lobbying by the Friends of the Country Park, Ramblers and SEG has finally led to the footpath being reopened.”

The Friends of Hastings Country Park and Nature Reserve said they were “delighted that persistent local community pressure has finally had an effect.”

However, SEG pointed out that a report by geotechnical engineer Coffey in November 2020, on which the decision to reopen was based, cautioned that the landslip, although considered dormant, could become active again in the event of wetter weather, changes of flows of ground and surface water, changes of loadings on the slope or cliff erosion.

A detailed risk assessment should be carried out before reopening the footpath was considered, it said, adding that there had been no detailed ground investigation, groundwater monitoring or slope stability assessment and therefore sensitivity to changes in rainfall and groundwater could not be predicted.

SEG obtained a redacted copy of the report under a Freedom of Information request.

Man-made contributions

A 2015 Coffey report “recognised that there were man-made contributory factors to the 2013-14 landslips that started in Rocklands Caravan Park,” SEG said. “These factors include changes to drainage, terracing and removal of trees. These factors remain uninvestigated and unchanged.

“SEG have campaigned for many years for the implementation of the 2015 Coffey 2 report recommendations to carry out further investigations into drainage and slope stability and to mitigate the factors that caused the landslip.”

SEG – “and the public” – would continue to monitor the landslip for any early warning signs of instability, it said.

Barrier at western end of closed path.

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Posted 10:05 Saturday, Jul 3, 2021 In: Home Ground

2 Comments

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  1. Christopher Hurrell

    The councils statement on the reopening of the footpath is a fine example of spin. HBC has basically done nothing for 8 years , ignoring the recommendations of previous Coffey Geotechnical reports and brushing over the role of unauthorised developments in Rocklands on the landslip. HBC have refused to release any information on the landslip , spending around 35k on legal fees to ensure that the public don’t have access to the full Coffey 2 report.

    HBC have also refused to release many other commissioned reports and even refuse to publish a list of the reports that have been commissioned. HBC have not even released full information to the ESCC rights of way team that decided to finally reopen the footpath. HBC continue to vilify campaigners.

    The latest statement claims the landslip is now safe and stable – this is a misrepresentation of the latest Coffey report which concludes that:

    • The landslip is in a dormant condition
    · The landslip could become active again if we have wetter weather, there are changes of flows of ground and surface water, if there are changes of loadings on the slope, if there is cliff erosion.
    · Consideration could be given to reopening the footpaths but cautions that the landslip could become reactivated so a detailed risk assessment should be done first.
    · That there has been no detailed ground investigation, groundwater monitoring or slope stability assessment and therefore sensitivity to changes in rainfall and groundwater cannot be predicted.
    · Monitoring of the landslip should be reduced to once every two years

    The latest Coffey report can be seen here https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/753416/response/1813345/attach/4/Ecclesbourne%20Glen%20Insp

    Comment by Christopher Hurrell — Monday, Jul 12, 2021 @ 18:00

  2. Bernard McGinley

    The Council’s repeated use of the word ‘safe’ is at odds with what the geotechnical engineers said, which is ‘stable’.

    Comment by Bernard McGinley — Thursday, Jul 8, 2021 @ 10:14

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