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Good news for Littlehampton – Arun District Council’s Coastal Communities Fund bid has been successful and work will soon begin on enhancing Littlehampton town centre.

Artists impression of regenerated Littlehampton Town Centre – image courtesy Arun District Council.

While I congratulate all those involved in securing this funding, I have concerns at Arun District Council’s ability to successfully deliver a lasting and real regenerating scheme for Littlehampton town centre.

Artists impressions are one thing – but having the imagination and foresight to deliver something more than new paving and planters, is another.

For example, there are a number of quick and easy fixes that Arun as a council could easily introduce, which in my view, would have an immediate impact on improving town centre visitor numbers.

Number One – Finally tackle the problems of Littlehampton town centre street drinkers. Arun District Council have introduced special powers to seize and dispose of alcohol and move anti-social drinkers. So why not use them? A prolonged zero tolerance campaign on street drinking will yield substantive rewards.

Number two – Call off the over-zealous parking enforcement officers, the now detested litter wardens and boot out the paramilitary styled ‘business wardens’ all of whom are a parasite on the town’s backside.

Number three – using the savings to fund a town centre police officer and base them in drop-in either the Town or District Council’s offices.

Number four – Improving street cleaning – I’ve given up relying on the council’s cleaning contractors, every morning I clean the area outside our shop and the neighbouring CAB. In the 2 years I’ve been in Anchor Springs, I’ve yet to see any decent attempt at street cleaning.

Unfortunately, the delivery of Arun District Council’s previous Littlehampton regeneration schemes aren’t exactly encouraging.

Take Pier Road, for example. Here Arun District Council oversaw a £22.5m joint regeneration scheme with the Environment Agency, scheduled to take 6 months, which dragged on for almost three years. The disruption to businesses resulted in heavy financial losses and ultimately delivered very little by way of tangible benefits to the area.

If you doubt this – despite spending £22.5 on building new flood defences, the flood risk on the Environment Agency’s flood risk scale remains at exactly the same ‘high risk’ level as it did prior to building the flood defences. And Arun District Council still refuse to grant planning permission for ground floor residences citing ‘flood risk’.

Surely when the authorities spend £22.5m on new flood defences, the flood risk should be reduced?

At the launch of the scheme, Arun District Council announced their regeneration scheme would create 37 new jobs for Pier Road. However, the reality has been business closures and redundancies.

What was once a an old fashioned, atmospheric quaint seaside road where visitors sat on a wall eating fish and chips while watching the harbour activity, has been replaced with a raised concrete runway, that is now stained like a nightclub floor in Benidorm, following a Stag or Hen party.

Unsuitable bins for a windy seafront/harbour area.

Simple things like bins. Why would anyone put the above bin arrangement on a windy harbour walkway? Much of the contents of Pier Road’s bins ends up blowing into the road, river and sea just because the brains at Arun District Council cannot understand/accept that the bins such as the one pictured above are unsuitable for seaside/harbour/windy locations.

I’ve sent the council pictures and designs of suitable, and ultimately cheaper alternatives, which have been ignored. Ironically, Arun are responsible for littering Pier Road and the seafront area, something they arrogantly refuse to accept.

Regeneration typically leads to higher business rates and shop rents

Prior to the council’s ‘regeneration scheme’, Pier Road was a thriving prosperous business area. However, now it’s in a fairly sorry state with a number of Pier Road’s longest standing businesses either closed permanently, or forced out by high rents. All the Pier Road business owners that I have spoken to, report that trading figures have never returned to where they were pre-regeneration works.

No sooner had Pier Road reopened following the works, my shop landlords sold these buildings to speculative property developers who raised the rents substantially forcing us to relocate the Dutch Bike Shop to the town centre.

Our shop premises, which we painted every year and was home to our successful bike shop business is now an eyesore, land banked for future redevelopment, but wanting an interim tenant to pay rent while the landlord waits until the market is right for them to build houses.

Our old shop in Pier Road, home to the Dutch for over 16 years.

Pier Road’s iconic favourites – Dinky Doo Diner, The Nelson hotel, Balaton’s, the Moorings Tea Rooms are all now closed. Even Arun District Council’s own flagship ‘Look And Sea!’ went bankrupt at the latter part of 2018. The council now looking for new tenants.

Immediately following the council’s regeneration of Pier Road – all the road’s business premises were revalued by the government’s Valuations Office., leading in many cases to increased business rates.

A nice walkway, a few tropical grasses in a sandy border and an ‘design award’ is all that’s needed for the government and local councils to stick their hands deeper into the pockets of all-ready over-taxed small business owners.

For years, Pier Road, which was prior to the council’s regeneration scheme a very successful, profitable trading area continues to suffer since the council’s well meaning, but poorly executed attempt at ‘regeneration’ .

I hope the same scenario isn’t repeated in Littlehampton town centre and lessons can be learnt from the Pier Road experience.

This project will need to be managed carefully to ensure Littlehampton town centre remains open during what will undoubtedly be, disruptive works.

While £2.5m to improve Littlehampton’s town centre is good news for us all. A close eye will need to be kept on those tasked with delivering this scheme to ensure it doesn’t further lead to more business closures in an already challenging retail landscape.

Ultimately, Littlehampton town centre needs more than a council revamp. There has to be a willingness amongst the many slum landlords to finally improve the appearance of their properties, lower rents, and accept that the days where they could charge £25,000 year for 500 sq ft of crap retail space are long gone.

Shop owners must also change their ways and create a retail experience that makes their business a place visitors are willing to travel to and spend their hard earned money in. The days of hanging a ‘use us or loose us’ notice in the shop window are long gone.

As business owners, we must offer sufficient incentives to our customers to keep our cash tills ringing.

As always your comments welcome, thanks for reading.

Paul

January now, not long before Spring and the early season visitors start arriving in our town. Still no official word from Arun District Council on what’s happening with the future of the Look and Sea! building. 

Importantly, will it be open and ready in time for the start of our tourist season?

Earlier this week, I saw that the remains of a New Year’s Eve celebrations from a nearby pub, still sat on the tables outside the now closed Look and Sea!

I find this unacceptable, given the level of proactive ‘council wardens’ that Arun District Council employ – from their parking wardens to their litter wardens that neither party during their frequent patrols in this area  could be bothered to inform the cleansing department at the council that the area badly needed cleaning up.

Surely it should be part of their job description to report on areas that need attention and it shouldn’t be up to local residents, business owners or visitors to tell the council that the building they own has been left in an appalling state?

I emailed senior officers at Arun District Council with some pictures and to be fair, there was an immediate response to get the place cleaned up and tidy. But, no reply to my question/observation as to why the council’s enforcement officers aren’t reporting back on things like this.

I also suggested to Arun District Council’s Chief Officer, Nigel Lynn that his senior officers should get out from behind their desks and take a more proactive approach to sorting out many of this towns easy-fix problems, this being one of them.

Let’s hope that ADC appoint a new operator and get this wonderful building with terrific harbour views open and welcoming customers back again in the near future. Let’s also hope that the council might instruct its army of enforcement officers (parking and litter) to report back to the council on whatever needs attention. You’d imagine this would happen automatically, but sadly not.

On a more positive note, thanks to Practical Boat Owner Magazine for commissioning and publishing my Visitors Guide to Littlehampton in their January 2019 Issue.

As always, thanks for reading – the Pier Road Blog is up and runnning for a new lease of life on a new server with a new domain name – pierroad.blog

As always, your comments welcome.

Paul

 

UPDATED: You can now see a video of this event on our YouTube Channel.

Today, Tuesday 25th February 2014 marked an important milestone in the construction of Littlehampton’s Sea Defences as the especially created Crane Bridge was commissioned.

Littlehampton Sea DefencesThe especially created ‘Crane Bridge’ above.

If you’ve just joined us, a quick overview on why the bridge is necessary.

The Project’s engineering team previously discovered that Pier Road is simply not strong enough to take the weight of the 130tonne crane, which is needed to undertake the piling work.  To overcome this problem,  a massive ‘Crane Bridge’ or platform has been designed and constructed to lessen the weight impact on Pier Road.

Today, we witnessed the amazing sight of the 130 tonne crane quite literally driving up an especially created shingle ramp onto the Crane Bridge where it will operate from.

The pictures below detail both the construction of the ramp and the driving of the crane onto the platform.

Littlehampton Flood Defences 1aWork begins on building the crane ramp.

Over 400 tonnes of shingle were needed to build the ramp. Once the piling is finished and the ramp no longer required, the shingle will then be used to back-fill behind the piles, so there’s no extra cost in materials in creating the ramp.

Littlehampton Flood Defences 1The ramp is so high that the roller has to be lifted onto by the crane.

Flood Defences 4Rolling and compacting the shingle to take the 130 tonne crane.

Littlehampton Flood Defences 2Careful attention is taken by VolkerStevin to ensuring the levels are just right.

Littlehampton Flood Defences crane bridgeThe view from the Crane’s bridge, which gives you an idea of both it’s scale and height.

Littlehampton Crane Bridge 3Preparations underway to ready both the ramp and the crane bridge.

Littlehampton Crane Bridge 4No room for error as the crane is extremely close to the edge.

Littlehampton Crane Bridge 5Crane ready to begin its climb.

Littlehampton Crane Bridge 6One of VolkerStevin’s engineers gets ready to give the go-ahead.

Littlehampton Sea Defences Crane climb 1Everyone holds their breath as the crane begins its climb but then the engine stalls leading to some lighthearted banter. The crane is reversed up so as to allow the rear weights take the strain (these are the red blocks at the rear of the crane)

Littlehampton Sea Defences Crane climb 2Initial attempts fail as the crane’s heavy duty tracks dig into the aggregate and it’s unable to climb.

Crushing sleepers 1Some sleepers are laid to give the tracks more purchase.

crushing sleepers 2However, these are quickly turned into wood chip.

crushing sleepers 3This time more sleepers are laid, but at a different angle. Will they be enough to allow the crane to begin its climb?

crushing sleepers 4Initially it looks as if they’re going to go the same way as their predecessors..

Crane almost there 1But the plan works and the crane begins its climb.

crane almost there 2Almost there.

crane almost there 3Continuing the climb.

crane almost there 5Hanging in the balance. The awful moments when the crane is about to go beyond the point of no return. You’d have to have been there to appreciate the creaking and banging noises, hence the guys all looking upwards.. (I have a video of the whole event which I’ll shortly upload to the Diaries)

success crane on rampA success! The crane is safely in its new position on the recently constructed crane platform. Everyone was impressed with the skill of the crane driver, who made what looked like a near impossible task easy.

Littlehampton Sea Defences crane driverThis man’s skill was amazing.

crane on the rampThe crane in position ready to start the piling works in Pier Road.

So what happens now?

Earlier I caught up with Eric Smethurst, VolkerStevin’s Public Liaison manager.

Eric explained that the crane will now begin piling works in Pier Road. While this is going on, a second bridge will put into position ahead of the existing bridge and the crane will simply drive forward onto this new section when it’s completed. The section the crane was on will then be placed forward of this section and so forth – so essentially ‘leap-frogging’ along Pier Road until all the piling is completed.

It’s an amazing sight. There’s no doubt about it that the construction of Littlehampton’s Sea Defences is now entering an exciting phase. Lots to see, especially in Pier Road, which will now become a hive of activity.

So If you haven’t been down to see the works already – now is a good time.

This is one of two cranes that are now working on the construction of Littlehampton’s Flood Defences. The second crane is currently working in Arun Parade and this is the bigger of the two cranes weighing in a massive 160 tonnes.

If you’re visiting – Remember that (at the moment at least) you can park free in the Windmill Car Park, courtesy of Arun District Council provided you are a customer of a business in Pier Road.

So come down, grab a bite to eat and enjoy the view.

Make sure you keep up to date with the Pier Road Diaries by entering signing up for regular updates. Just enter your email address in the box on the top right hand side of this page just below the twitter feed.

If you’re on twitter remember to follow us at @pier_road

As always, thank you for reading and joining us.

We welcome your comments.

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