Mid and East Antrim Council has been left facing a £50,000 repair bill, after 3000 tonnes of rubble damaged its flagship tourist attraction.
The Times understands that heavy rain and high winds whipped up by Storm Frank last month resulted in a landslide at the £7.5m Gobbins cliff path, with soil, stones and other material washed away in the deluge.
The Islandmagee attraction, which opened to huge fanfare just five months ago, has been closed to the public since the end of December due to fears over health and safety.
The major slippage, which took place at the access path leading down to the Gobbins entrance at Wise’s Eye, has also impacted the long-standing war memorial at the site.
Meanwhile, we understand the storm also caused some minor damage to the main pathway itself, including one of the steel bridges.
The attraction will remain closed until repairs have been carried out, and the Times has learned that about 100 bookings had to be cancelled for the month of January. Customers were offered either a refund or the opportunity to move to a future tour date once the path is reopened.
A special meeting was held at Carrick Town Hall on Monday evening, when elected members received an update on the situation from RPS Consulting Engineers. The meeting was held in closed session, meaning members of the Press and general public were not permitted to attend.
Councillors were shown a video demonstrating the scale of the damage to the access path, and heard that the estimated cost of repair could be in the region of £40-£50k.
We understand the council may ask central government to help cover the cost, otherwise the local authority will have to foot the bill itself.
In a statement released on Wednesday morning, the council said: “Specialists have been on site in recent days assessing the degree of damage to identify the works needed to reopen. At the meeting, councillors agreed to put in place a temporary drainage system to prevent the excess rain water causing further damage to the access paths.”
The local authority apologised for any inconvenience caused by the closure and said it was working to have the path reopened “as soon as possible”.
The Gobbins Visitor Centre, shop and exhibition remains open to the public from 10am–4pm daily.
The newly reinstated Gobbins cliff path, which gives unequalled access to stunning coastal views, officially opened in August following a number of delays.
The attraction is proving to be a big hit and recently welcomed its 5,000th visitor.
Tourism NI has described the experience as “one of Northern Ireland’s most exhilarating attractions”.