Matlock Bath’s cherished Illuminations festival will go ahead, the Mercury can confirm.
Derbyshire Dales District Council has promised that remedial work to make the Lovers’ Walk along the Derwent River safe from rockfall is due to begin in a few days, securing a key emergency exit route to allow the major seven-week events to proceed unhindered.
Residents and traders of applauded as they were told at a public meeting tonight (June 24) that a vital rock survey had been completed and remedial rock scaling had been costed, and would be completed well in time.
Chief executive Dorcas Bunton and council leader Cllr Lewis Rose addressed the worried community after fears emerged that the festival, which attracts some 8,500 visitors each weekend, may be threatened.
Ms Bunton said: “We’ve had the specialist contractors back on site today and they have told us that there is evidence of further rockfall and instability in the rock face, and remedial work would be needed to make it safe.
“They have costed that for us and they have confirmed that if we carry out all the remedial work, public safety will be significantly increased.
“They have also confirmed that if we can carry out that work we can reopen Lovers Walk from the station to the New Bridge at Derwent Gardens.”
“We will ask the council tomorrow to endorse the instructions to start work on the site from July 1, and it will take approximately three weeks to complete that work, so we will be able to open the walk by the end of July and the illuminations will go ahead.”
The remedial works will involve rock scaling - effectively removing all loose rock to make the walks as safe as possible.
Costing just under £25,000, the work will be undertaken by Rock Solutions, whose initial survey was commissioned after a rockfall incident in 2013, when a boulder fell onto the footpath, and the report was received on June 1 highlighting the scale of the dangers from falling rocks.
Ms Bunton added: “I took the decision along with the deputy leader at the time that we had to close Lovers Walk; The council could not ignore what it now knew about the rock face. It told us that we had a duty of care to the public along the whole of Lovers Walk.”
The council is still awaiting confirmation of the survey spanning New Bridge up to the entrance at Willersley Castle, she continued.
“We wanted to prioritise where we were looking because we know what was very important to people of Matlock Bath is whether the Illumination event will go ahead, so we wanted to make sure that what we did first was the area that would safeguard the event.”
The council also quelled worries that even if there are some delays due to over-run, the contractors have committed to completing the work on time.
Council Leader, Cllr Lewis Rose said: “They will send a team in and are confident the work will be completed but they have said if the works cannot be completed to timetable they will put more resources into it.”
The scaling will be a temporary solution to the issue, residents heard, as the survey found that erosion was significant, and the council will have to look into a more permanent solution in the future, likely involving wire netting.
The news closely follows a report that the council was still awaiting the result of the contractor’s analysis.
A council spokesperson said the report came in at 5pm this evening, ahead of schedule and just in time for the public meeting.