Page last updated at 13:00 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 14:00 UK

Landslip beach closed 'for years'

The landslide at Lyme Regis
The landslip is about the length of four football pitches

A beach blocked by the "worst landslip for 100 years" in Dorset will be closed to the public for several years.

About 400m (1,312ft) of cliff slipped between Lyme Regis and Charmouth on 6 May, exposing an old landfill site.

Washing machines, fridges, metal cylinders and bottles have blocked part of the World Heritage Jurassic Coastline beach path.

Simon Parker, the county council's emergency planner, said the beach would be impassable for "years to come".

The earth movement - the length of four football pitches - has affected part of the 95-mile (153-km) Dorset and east Devon Jurassic Coast - with rocks recording 185 million years of the earth's history.

It was England's first natural Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) World Heritage Site and attracts fossil hunters from all over the world.

Mr Parker said the exposed items, which are not deemed hazardous, will have to be left to wash into the sea.

We have had to chase people away
Simon Parker
Emergency planning officer
He said: "We have taken samples of what has been exposed and our scientists have said they do not pose any immediate danger unless, for example, they are eaten.

"We have put up signs warning about things like broken bottles and advise people to avoid the area.

"Unfortunately it is too unstable to get machinery onto the site to try and block these items coming down so it looks as though the beach will be blocked, probably for years to come as more rubbish is brought down to the shore and disposed of naturally."

The landfill site, which dates back to Victorian times, closed in the early 1970s.

It was also used as an unlicensed dumping ground, so many of the contents are still unknown.

An Environment Agency inspection of the site has highlighted the discovery of asbestos tiles - but Mr Parker said as long as they stay in one piece they should not pose a problem.

Quicksand on beach

"From what we have seen so far the movement is not breaking up these tiles and we are confident they won't pose a danger," Mr Parker added.

"The water has also been tested and we are satisfied there is no damage being caused."

He said monitoring and sampling of the waste would continue and action would be taken if needed.

He warned fossil hunters not to risk their lives climbing onto the unstable cliffs.

"We have had to chase people away, we can't emphasise the dangers enough - not just of climbing the cliffs, which still have rocks and boulders falling down - but the quicksand on the beach."

An alternative route, which is slightly longer, is available and signposted, he said.

Views on landslip scheme sought
03 Feb 08 |  Dorset
French sand for landslip scheme
16 May 06 |  Dorset


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