Plaster not enough

By Dr Bruce Denness

Friday, March 7, 2014



From Dr Bruce Denness, Whitwell:

While rehearsing his view of the 2007 withdrawal of £13 million in central government funding for a scheme aimed at resolving instabilities on Undercliff Drive, Paul Wilkinson opined "things might have been…different" had the proposed scheme gone ahead, leading the County Press to head its front page "Shelved scheme 'could have saved Undercliff Drive" (CP, 28-02-14).  

Mr Wilkinson noted the cancelled scheme had been designed to manage the Undercliff water table. Indeed it was — but unfortunately, in my opinion, not the appropriate part of the water table.  

As the engineering geologist who, while working for the (now) British Geological Survey (BGS), carried out ground control for the delineation of the landslip zones on the formal 1976 geological map of the IW, I believe the groundwater pressure that drives the Undercliff instabilities lies much deeper than that addressed by the cancelled scheme — or indeed the current one.

To check that, a few years ago I supervised the drilling of a 100-metre deep borehole (installed free by Coresource Limited and logged by the BGS) from the top of the downs inland of the Undercliff down to the problem stratum.

It proved my point, leading to the conclusion that, until that deep groundwater pressure is relieved, any other stabilisation measures would be merely cosmetic — much like putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg.   

That may sound expensive but it could have been encompassed well within the original budget and could yet be done.

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