Residents of a north-east village could be forced to pay out thousands to save their homes after becoming locked in a battle between the council and private landowners.
Severe floods earlier this month wiped out land to the west of Sandend and has left about 30 homeowners facing the prospect of watching their properties disappear under the hillside.
Aberdeenshire Council has advised families to avoid the rear of their homes until repairs are carried out, and to move their beds to their front rooms in case another landslip occurs.
But as the authority does not own the land, it has said it is not liable for the repairs.
Likewise, residents have claimed the land’s legal owner, Seafield Estate, is refusing to accept liability.
They met with their local MP to inspect the damage yesterday morning and said it was a “matter of urgency” that something was done now.
A community group within the village now hopes to raise enough cash to carry out a survey of the site themselves, but fear that they will ultimately need to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair the slip.
Homeowner Ray Murray said: “People have been told to take ‘great care’ in their properties in the west of the village.
“There’s been a warning issued because of the significant risk of a major landslip. If they were sleeping at the top end of their homes, they’ve now been advised to think twice and relocate their bedroom.
“There’s a lot of holiday homes in Sandend, and a lot of people have been involved with their insurers for a considerable period of time to try and get something sorted out. There’s been a very large public meeting already and there’s been a great deal of support to get
this land survey done as quickly as possible to identify what the problem is and try to find a solution.”
Fellow local resident Mark Leith added the bulk of damage at Sandend occurred during heavy rains last week.
“The banks have slipped quite substantially towards the older cottages towards the harbour,” he said.
“Seafield Estate very quickly built a defensive ditch, which seemed to alleviate some of the rainwater coming off their fields.
“But basically the situation we’re caught in now is that the local landowners, Seafield, is not accepting any liability. And Aberdeenshire Council are not accepting any liability because there’s not any council properties at risk.
“So this will be left down to the community, I think. Firstly to arrange a geo-technical survey which could cost anywhere between £5,000 and £20,000 alone. Then, we’re looking at repair or removal work which would be into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
David Duguid MP toured the affected properties yesterday morning, and admitted afterwards there were “no easy answers”.
“As this is private land, this is not a case of simply appealing for action by Aberdeenshire Council,” he said.
“However, local authority officials may be in a position to provide some advice to residents considering raising funds for ground survey work.
“The community council deserves credit for raising this as an issue, and I think we need to see more of that local involvement here in the north-east.”
Councillor John Cox, who also visited the village yesterday, said it must be a “priority” to get the survey work done to assess the severity of the damage.
He added:“What is important is that we focus on the solution, and if we work together it will be far more productive at the end of the day. There’s no one to balme here, both Seafield and council officers have come forward and are doing everything they can.”
A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council said the authority has offered local people “technical advice” since the landslip.
“With regards to repairs, as the landslip has occurred on privately owned land, Aberdeenshire Council is not liable to carry out repair work for any damage caused,” he said.
Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Seafield Estate said the firm was keen to work with local people to find a long-term fix.
“We are doing everything we can to investigate the problem and find out what needs done to rectify the situation,” she added.