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Monday 5 June 2023 Dublin: 18°C
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# Wicklow
Coastal erosion and cost of repairs endangers Bray cliff walk
Wicklow County Council were forced to close off parts of the Bray Cliff Walk last year.

ENGINEERS WARNED THAT efforts to make safe the path of one of the country’s most famous walking routes were doomed to failure because of the danger of collapsing cliffs.

Wicklow County Council were forced to close off parts of the Bray Cliff Walk last year with an internal report saying stabilisation works would be “prohibitively exorbitant” and “excessively hazardous”.

Engineers recommended that the local authority negotiate with nearby landowners about creating a new route that would take visitors inland and away from the most vulnerable cliffs.

A significant grant of €198,000 was subsequently awarded by government to help contribute towards construction and land acquisition costs.

An inspection report said that two significant collapses had taken place within forty metres of each other on the path between Bray and Greystones in spring of last year.

It said walking was now “hazardous” and that efforts to fence off the most dangerous parts of the path had posed difficulties.

The report said: “It is simply not feasible to physically close off the Cliff Walk to the public. This was tried … during the very first Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions.

“Fences and barriers erected were simply pulled apart and broken, including private farmland fences and gates. Even when signs are erected and media campaigns advertise its closure and that it is hazardous, the public do still walk it.”

District engineer Ruairi O’Hanlon said negotiations with local landowners should start immediately as the cliff edge was now very unstable.

He said there was no way any geotechnical expert would deem them safe and that trying to restore the pathway was “simply not a feasible solution”.

The report said there was significant risk of further collapses, high tides encroaching on the cliff face, and that the window of time for carrying out work would be very short.

“No plant, machinery, or materials could be left on the beach due to high tide and access to the base of the collapse could take ninety minutes from the Greystones Harbour Marina,” it said.

Mr O’Hanlon also said that any works carried out might only last a short while before another storm came along to undo them.

He also explained how the cliff was mostly being eroded by surface water runoff from above with drainage pipes through the land dating from when the local rail line was first constructed in the 19th century.

The report said this would only get worse due to climate change and that the only option was to move the path inland and try and deal with the runoff of surface water.

The engineer suggested that works could take place to modernise or remove pipes and that creation of a woodland on Bray Head would also help.

His report concluded: “It is a fact that the cliff will continue to erode and collapse as it has done possibly for the last 10,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age.

“If we wish to protect this amenity for future generations, we need to future proof it as best we can with current best practice.”

Mr O’Hanlon recommended the removal of the ageing pipes to allow the development of natural drainage ditches to allow water to flow naturally towards the sea.

Planting of trees on Bray Head was also recommended with minutes of a Greystones Municipal District saying farmers would need to be “incentivised” to take part.

A statement from the council said: “Following the collapse of the cliff on the Greystones side of the Cliff Walk in February 2021 a report was prepared by Municipal District Engineer Ruairi O’Hanlon.  

“In the report, a short-term action was to negotiate with adjacent landowners in order to bypass the affected area and these rerouting negotiations are still ongoing by the law department of Wicklow County Council.  Monies have been ringfenced for the lands in question.

“In the interim, funding has been secured by … Wicklow County Council to do the relevant construction works once land negotiations are completed.”

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