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Landslip tragedy sparks future fears

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: April 03, 2013

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LOOE residents are seeking urgent reassurance over the risk of future landslides following the death of 68-year-old grandmother Susan Norman.

Mrs Norman was killed after a landslide caused her home on Sandplace Road to collapse in the early hours of Friday, March 22.

Last week the Cornish Guardian reported that residents from Sandplace Road and St Martin's Road had written to Cornwall Council in February, claiming the council was failing in its duty of care to protect them and their properties.

Previous landslides, which meant that Sandplace Road was closed at the time of Mrs Norman's death to allow repair works, had prompted concerns over the stability of the land and the residents have called for geological surveys in the area.

In Hannafore, West Looe, a landslide in December blocked the only road into the village for more than 24 hours leaving residents stranded.

Rob Davis, who owns Island View Café in Hannafore said: "The council seem to be dragging its feet. We do understand the economics of it and we know it's not easy but they should at least do a survey of Looe to ensure the risk of future landslides is limited."

Mr Davis and his wife Liz, who have run the café for ten years, said there seemed to have been more landslides in recent years.

"They seem to be getting more common.

"We have had three bad summers but the fear of landslides is more of a concern than the economic downturn over the last few months," Mr Davis said.

Tracey Graham, who owns Tom Sawyers Tavern said she was concerned for the safety of residents if Hannafore was cut off again: "If there was another landslide which shut off the road and someone needed an ambulance or the police they couldn't get in," she said.

"We would be stranded and nobody could get in or out."

The mother of three said road closures have also had a negative effect on businesses in the town.

Following the landslide on March 22, the two main routes into Looe, St Martins Road and Sandplace Road were closed. On Thursday evening Sandplace Road was reopened after the site was made safe and emergency repairs to the road were carried out.

Mrs Graham said: "We have never been so quiet over Easter. If there's no access to Looe nobody is going to come down. It has stopped people from coming into the town.

"We need to make sure Looe is safe."

Roger Minter, general manager at Hannafore Point Hotel said: "We lost a lot of money because of the landslide before Christmas. People just couldn't get here.

"And it's the same with this one. People have cancelled because they did not think it was worth their while. People don't want to travel 25 miles to come out for the evening."

Looe mayor David Bryan said: "An event like this is a great tragedy and it has affected everybody. The closure of the roads has also had an effect on Looe as a whole but this is insignificant in comparison to the loss of a person's life.

"My personal view is that all developments in Looe should be put on hold for the time being so investigations into the ground stability can take place throughout the whole of Looe to make sure a tragedy like this doesn't happen again."

A joint investigation into the cause of the landslip which led to Mrs Norman's death is being carried out by Devon and Cornwall Police and the Health and Safety Executive.

A representative from Cornwall Council said: "The council has provided detailed information relating to the highways and drainage systems in the area affected by the landslip in Looe to the police and Health and Safety Executive.

"This includes the results of previous surveys carried out by the council's structural engineers. However, as this information is part of an ongoing investigation, we are unable to publish details until this has been concluded. We are aware of the concerns of the residents of Sandplace Road over the safety of their homes and the potential for any further landslips and are working with them to assist them in carrying out further surveys of the area to assess the ongoing risks associated with their properties."

Friends, relatives and civic leaders attended a memorial service for Mrs Norman on Friday. See page 6.

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