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Councillor Paul Dendle

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One of a number of reasons given by the contractor for the ongoing delay in the construction of Littlehampton’s Sea Defences is – the lack of Welders.

With a £14 million sea defence contract you’d imagine that with that sort of budget, you could afford to hire a few decent welders.

Apparently not, it seems as a lack of welders is being blamed as one of the reasons for the ongoing delays in completion of Littlehampton’s Sea Defences.

This and the more worrying fact that VolkerStevin (and/or consulting engineers associated with the project) have managed to seriously underestimate the strength of Pier Road to take their crane.

It appears that the original surveys of Pier Road were fundamentally flawed and where they originally concluded that the road was strong enough to stand the crane on ‘crane mats’,  they’ve now subsequently discovered that the road isn’t strong enough to do this.

And if they had gone ahead with their original plan, they explained this would potentially lead to: ” a catastrophic slip circle failure of the existing structure.”

Roughly translated –  Pier Road could potentially slide into the River Arun.

Not exactly encouraging confidence.

However the good news is that Dutch engineering giant VolkerStevin have now figured out a way of getting themselves quite literally out of a hole by building a specially adapted ‘crane bridge’ on which to sit their crane during the piling works.

And the costs of this unexpected creation – a staggering £400,00.

So, how’s work going on building this bridge?

In a scene reminiscent  of something from ‘Death of a Salesman‘, I watched and listened as VolkerStevin’s Site Manager explained that their welders had walked off the job. ‘I’m not running a labour camp,’ he explained to the astonished meeting. ‘We can’t just keep them there,’ he said exasperated.

And why did they walk off the job?

“They weren’t happy with the conditions…”

Further revelations in response to questions from Pier Road Traders revealed that VolkerStevin have only, and this is an approximation, 20 people actually working onsite.

Remember we’re talking a budget of £14 million here. Actually £14m plus the £400k overspend as someone got their calculations seriously wrong.

It was then brought to their attention that all of these welding woes could have been avoided had VolkerStevin employed Littlehampton’s own reliable  Littlehampton Welding company, which enjoys an enviable reputation worldwide.

And it just so happens this superb company’s HQ is located just a few steps from VolkerStevin’s site office in Littlehampton harbour.

There’s no explanation as to why Littlehampton Welding weren’t used, but I find it unacceptable that with £14 million being spent on this project, a local Littlehampton company were not used and we’re left at the mercy of unhappy welders who simply walk off site.

So, at the moment, there’s no piling work being undertaken in Pier Road as we’re still waiting for this bridge to be built.

As you’d expect VolkerStevin brochure is full of the sort of corporate bullshit you’d expect from big companies like these.

Announcing on the front page of their website  – ‘clever engineering’. (but apparently not clever enough to spot what is obvious to even the seagulls that Pier Road has an appalling road surface and has been crumbling away for years – something that the traders from Pier Road highlighted to their ‘clever engineers’ when we met during the consultation process.

“VolkerStevin provides complex engineering solutions across a wide range of sectors including civil engineering, land remediation and regeneration, water and marine infrastructure and flood and coastal protection.”

Conveniently on page 7 of the VolkerStevin brochure they declare: ‘SET US A CHALLENGE’

Here’s one guys – find a welding company in Littlehampton – clue – they’re right next to your site offices.

You couldn’t make this sort of stuff up.

This may actually beat’s Arun District Councillor’s Paul Dendle’s hilarious declaration via Twitter, where he ‘announced there were no material delays with the scheme and we’d be finished on target in July.

This when the Project team had already announced they were four weeks behind, and this announcement came six weeks prior to Councillor Dendle’s announcement….

Incidentally, despite, as I’ve been led to believe being invited to this meeting, Councillor Dendle didn’t attend and neither were apologies or any explanation offered. This from Arun District Council’s Flood Defence Chief.

I wonder if he’s any good at welding?

 

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Brace yourself for long delays.

The Environment Agency have today confirmed that the Sea Defence Works currently underway in Pier Road and Arun Parade are facing long delays and both roads will now be closed for a period of at least a year.

Autumn 2014 is now the anticipated completion date for the scheme, which has come as a huge blow to both residents and business owners whose roads (Pier Road, Arun Parade and part of South Terrace) have already been closed since Autumn 2013.

The Environment Agency have also confirmed works in Pier Road and Arun Parade will continue throughout the summer months.

Reasons for the delay, provided by the Environment Agency include:

  1. Adverse weather
  2. Multiple crane and rig breakdowns together with technical problems with the mechanical plant.
  3. A number of complex and very important safety issues regarding locating the crane on the existing riverside area.
  4. The drawings for Arun Parade and Pier Road have only recently been finalised that has led to some increase in the amount of time required on site.

What’s not clear at this time is if this revised finish date includes the completion of the scheme’s enhancements and the work required to put Pier Road and Arun Parade back as usable surfaces following the works.

If this new date does not include completion of these additional works, then we could easily be looking at early 2015 before we see Pier Road and Arun Parade returned to normal again.

We’re grateful to the Environment Agency for this latest update.

A deafening silence…

Sorry, there’s been no updates on the blog (for a while now)  regarding the Environment Agency and Arun District Council’s joint £15million sea defence and public realm enhancements for Littlehampton.

I’m afraid, despite my repeated requests to the Environment Agency (since prior to Christmas) for updates, so far there has been no official response.

However, Arun District Council’s Councillor’s Paul Dendle, whose Cabinet Member Portfoli includes Engineering – Flood Defences – released this brief and somewhat bizarre statement via Twitter on 20th January 2014.

“unaware of any material delays 2 flood protection works,it was programmed 2 finish before school hols in Jul 14”

Surprising statement given the Environment Agencies previous updates regarding delays.

Furthermore, the Environment Agency’s Project Team last update reported they were now 4 weeks behind with the Pilling Schedule – this was back early December.

I fail to understand how Councillor Dendle can say that there are no material delays. However, in the absence of any other  official statement contradicting his statement, we can only conclude that officially at least, there are now no delays and all is on target to complete in July.

I did ask the Environment Agency to comment on Councillor Dendle’s announcement, but so far there’s been no response.

Previously they did provide a useful Outline of Programme of Works Document, which you can download here Outline draft programme R1_R2.

It provides a useful guide to the works taking place. And as you’d expect, states at the bottom that ‘this project is draft and is subject to change.’

Given the appalling weather, machinery problems, pilling problems, who wouldn’t be surprised that a major project like this one has slipped behind?

I certainly wouldn’t be. I’ve always said at our consultation meetings that the timescales presented were far too ambitious and unachievable for a scheme of this magnitude. More especially when those of us who live and work here understand the horrific weather we regularly have to put up with  in Pier Road.

So why no official update on the scheme’s progress?

Answering questions with deafening silence, is akin to gagging.

DSCF3157Here we are now, pictured above
Pier Road closedHere we were when then back in October 2013 when the road was closed over 3 months ago.
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