SAFETY concerns have led to the closure of two sections of Chester’s internationally famous City Walls.
The sections are to be temporarily supported by props to allow engineers to investigate the cause of abnormal movement.
The action is the result of the current and the most comprehensive survey into the state of the Scheduled Ancient Monument within living memory.
A 30-metre section of the Walls near Morgan’s Mount Watchtower, between St Martin's Way and Northgate Street, has been closed for safety reasons as work began on Tuesday to install props.
Water ingress is believed to have caused the inside section of the medieval structure to tilt outwards and parts of the sandstone staircase up to Morgan’s Mount have separated from the wall.
A section of the footpath below the Walls has also been cordoned off.
Councillor Herbert Manley, Regeneration Executive Member, said: “The walls are a live structure and a degree of movement is completely natural. If we encounter anything that looks a little abnormal then it is time to investigate and, if necessary, take action to prevent deterioration.
“Propping will ensure that no further movement takes place, make the walls safe, allow us to investigate the cause of the problem and also decide on remedial action, if appropriate.”
And he added: “That investigation will determine how long the Morgan’s Mount section will remain closed.”
Work will begin early next week to support a second section of the walls, between Eastgate Street and Bell Tower Walk, also showing apparent movement, but to a lesser extent and not requiring closure of the footpath.
Council leader Mike Jones said: “We are very proud that the Walls are getting the love and attention we promised and by June I will be able to announce a long term strategy and further investment.
“Because the walls are an ancient monument English Heritage has the final say on every brick and slab but we are cutting through their red tape and the end result will be a satisfying one.”
Chester Renaissance chief executive Rita Waters said: “The walls are a priceless asset, visited by over 2.5m visitors each year.
“We are working in partnership to undertake the most comprehensive review of their condition – externally and internally- within living memory which will help us to preserve and protect them for both present and future generations.”
Recently completed operations to remove vegetation growing in the walls, which will help monitor and preserve their condition.
Chester Renaissance, through the Portico Project are currently investigating the potential for restoration and better use of the historic towers which sit on a structure first built two thousand years ago by the Romans.