Landslide work due to start after two years

Coun Steven Bridgett at the Crag End landslide in February 2013.
Coun Steven Bridgett at the Crag End landslide in February 2013.

Work to repair the landslide near Rothbury, costing around £9million, is scheduled to begin in February.

Following a landslip that started on Boxing Day 2012 and worsened during the following winter and spring, the B6344 road at Crag End has been closed to all vehicles and pedestrians.

The site has proven to be very complex in terms of the ground conditions, particularly the need to deal with groundwater springs. This has led to the extensive drainage works being carried out on site which will need to be further enhanced during the construction of the project.

Eight boreholes, up to 55 metres deep, have been installed, together with 80 well points six metres deep. These have been tested and commissioned and will be used to control groundwater during the construction works.

A geotechnical investigation and study of groundwater has informed the proposal to build a retaining wall along the side of the road and provide permanent deep drainage so that the road remains stable in the long term.

Access for the ground investigations and eventual construction works has been complicated by the amount of drainage that has had to be undertaken and by the unstable nature of the ground and access difficulties.

The original budget for the scheme stood at £7.6million, which included £4.9million of government funding. The nature of the ground and the amount of further drainage to be undertaken will require the council to commit a further £1.5million. Therefore the council’s contribution has increased to £4million.

Community and business leaders will be invited to take part in a site visit to the landslip with a senior engineer from the county council who will show first-hand the difficult nature of the site and what the council has developed as a long-term solution for the road.

There will be three site visits, one this month for parish councillors, followed by one for other community and business leaders from Coquetdale and Longframlington on the same day, and then another in January.

The construction works are planned to begin in February and be completed by October 2015. The deadline has moved by about eight weeks from August because of the need for extended commercial and technical negotiations with the contractor. An open day will be organised in the Jubilee Hall in February to mark the start of the main construction phase of the project.

Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment, said: “We are confident of awarding the contract for this much-needed work in the next few weeks. The final design for the road will provide a stable long-term solution.”

Coun Steven Bridgett, who represents Rothbury and Coquetdale, said: “I understand residents are frustrated about how long this has taken, but the county council is fully committed to this road opening, hence the extra £1.5million in funding.

“This cannot be like the previous repair jobs at Crag End, it has to be a lasting solution on this site as we will not get the opportunity or the funding to do this again.

“I look forward to community and business leaders visiting the site with our engineer so they can hear and see exactly what is going on first-hand and hopefully dispel some of the myths regarding the site.”

Coun Scott Dickinson, business chairman at the county council, said: “I am pleased that despite many competing priorities for funding from across the county that the council has been able to commit the additional £1.5million required to progress and complete this £9million scheme.”