A LARGE stretch of Swanage beach was closed off this morning due to a landslide in the cliffs behind.
The heavy rain of the past few days has waterlogged the already unstable cliff face around Burlington Chine, causing a chunk to slip down onto beach huts yesterday afternoon, and again at 8am this morning.
No one was injured in the collapse, but Dorset police and coastguards have closed the beach to the public between the Ocean Bay restaurant and Shep’s Hollow, warning that the cliff could subside further at any moment.
Swanage coastguard station officer Ian Brown said they have been monitoring the cliffs near the chine for 18 months for signs of subsidence, and although the rain has accelerated the collapse it has not come as a shock.
“The cliffs here are sandstone and clay and the clay is completely waterlogged,” he said.
“There are all sorts of faults and issues, I’m no expert but we have been expecting it to slip, just not so soon.
“Part of it slipped away yesterday, and this morning we went back to take a look and saw another big chunk slide in front of our eyes.
“It is very dangerous so we are trying to keep people away, the cliff hasn’t found its level yet so we are expecting it to slip again, and there is falling debris hitting the walkway.”
He warned that some people who had made their way to the beach to view the spectacle were ignoring the cordon and walking down the beach.
“They are putting their own lives and those of the emergency services in danger,” he said.
Local councillors are meeting with experts from other agencies this afternoon to discuss the problem, including ways to stabilise other parts of the cliff.
No structures have been damaged, but some cliff-side gardens have partly slipped and are being monitored by council engineers.