Residents and visitors have been urged to avoid a section of Blackhead Path due to serious safety concerns caused by subsidence.
The first section of the entrance point to the path on the Old Castle Road is being shut with immediate effect.
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has taken the decision to close the stretch of path leading from the Whitehead carpark, following expert advice which deemed the condition of the pathway as posing a danger to members of the public.
Further subsidence has been identified along the path, with Council presented with no choice other than to prevent access to that part of the route until further notice.
The additional damage may have been caused by extreme weather which hit Northern Ireland last weekend – resulting in a month of rainfall landing in the space of several hours on Saturday.
The path has moved 30cms in the last year and, more significantly, 17cms in the last month.
Large cracks along the path wall have also been identified, indicating likely structural failure of the concrete wall and possible collapse.
The path was previously closed to vehicles and the latest move is to safeguard pedestrians.
A spokesman for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said today: “The health and safety of our residents and visitors to our borough is paramount.
“We take no chances whatsoever when it comes to people’s safety and wellbeing, and we have immediately closed access to this section of the path as a result. We understand and appreciate that this will be frustrating for those who enjoy this outstanding coastal path.
“We are extremely keen to reopen the path so it can be enjoyed by our local community and tourists, but given the seriousness of the situation we must act in the appropriate way to protect life and ensure safety.
“We will be continuing to work closely with residents and the local community, including Blackhead Path Preservation Society, until this situation is rectified.
“We know this is an inconvenience, but in the meantime we would encourage the public to explore and enjoy nearby alternative walking opportunities in the area, including Diamond Jubilee Wood, Whitehead Recreation Ground, Beach Road Nature Reserve and Bentra golfing facilities.
“Our council is also heavily involved in the Coastal Erosion Forum Group, which brings together central government and partner agencies working to identify safeguarding and improvement opportunities for Northern Ireland’s coastlines, our biggest tourism draws.”
An area of the path around the lighthouse was closed a few years ago after severe rockfall and subsidence, and further storms have worsened the damage.
Fences and signs warning people of the risks have already been erected, but a small number of people have ignored them previously, cutting away and damaging fence posts and locks.
Members of the public have been warned by Council that these actions pose serious risks to the perpetrators and wider general public should they access the path in its current state.
The spokesman added: “Substantial funding has already been set aside by Council for major investment works at Blackhead Path.
“Council is currently engaged with a project team to design and oversee those remedial works.
“Investigations on the scale of this work and the repairs needed began earlier this year, with plans to resolve the issue being put together over the coming months.
“Work timescales are weather-dependent, however, Council is moving this project forward and is committed to completing this as soon as possible. We appreciate the community’s patience and understanding throughout this process.
“Blackhead Path is a real asset to our tourism offering and hugely popular with the local community, but the safety of users of the path is our priority.”