Littlehampton Flood Defence Scheme asking for a cash bail out from Arun District Council

The Environment Agency’s Team responsible for delivering Littlehampton’s £14.5 million Flood Defence scheme announced on Friday, (11th April 2014) to Pier Road Traders, that Littlehampton’s Sea Defence project is now overspent.

So much so, that they’re now having to cut back on the public realm enhancements (the landscaping of the scheme), and also asking the tax payer for additional funds to complete the project.

The exact figure of the overspend hasn’t been disclosed.

Reasons for the increased expenditure is explained in an email from the Project Team as follows:

“The contractor’s costs for the public realm are higher than initially anticipated due to the increased programme duration and additional information on work specification provided as part of the detailed design process.”

 

The email advises that savings will be achieved by:

” a revised design has been proposed that adjusts this slightly replacing some of the ‘harder’ elements with additional planting.”

Revised designs will include:

  1. Removal of the bottom two planting terraces in lieu of a planted slope with a steel panel visible at the rear of the planted area.
  2. Removal of 3 areas of timber terracing at the southern end of Reach 1 in lieu of planting.
  3. Replacement of southern steps, adjacent to the service access road, with planting and a shorter section of steps.
  4. Replacement of steps near the lighthouse with a low wall, maintaining a short section of pedestrian steps for access.


“The changes achieve some of the necessary savings, however additional funds are required to deliver the scheme. Arun District Council’s Cabinet meeting on Monday 14th April will be asked to consider the recommendation of a supplementary estimate to fully implement the proposed enhancements..”

 

This last line in the above paragraph gives rise to further confusion. Is the additional cash being required to deliver the original scheme as consulted and agreed upon. Or, provide funds to construct the revised downsized enhancements?

Essentially, Littlehampton’s Sea Defence Project promised at a cost of £14.5 million and promised to be delivered and ready by early July 2014 is now not only seriously behind in timescales – we’re looking at end of the year before the works are finished and then Pier Road will require works from West Sussex Highways Department, which will most likely result in Pier Road not being open again until early 2015 – but now the local taxpayer will be paying for what could only be described as gross incompetence.

What’s really annoying is just how many hours of our time in Pier Road was spent agreeing on a design for the public realm enhancements – this included quite literally days of our time – including attending workshops, consultation meetings, reviewing draft designs only not to see what we finally agreed on being quite literally altered and reduced in one simple email.

Why did we bother wasting our time?

Why were we so gullible as to believe that this shower of incompetents were remotely interested in how the final Littlehampton’s Seafront would look when in reality anything that was agreed could be instantly altered without any further consultation?

Here’s a brief overview of why this Project is both over-time and over-spent.

1. Engineering/survey flaws.

Despite being repeatedly told by traders in Pier Road many of whom have lived here for over 50 years that Pier Road was unsuitable and incapable of taking the weight of the large machinery needed to undertake the piling works, the Environment Agency’s Project Manager, Peter Borsberry ignored this advice relying instead on surveys by his appointed engineers.

These surveys proved flawed and it was only after a period of 4 month’s inactivity in Pier Road, the Environment Agency’s finally admitted during one of our meetings that a specially adapted crane bridge would have to be constructed incurring an additional £400,000 costs to the project budget.

My view is that the engineering firm  who provided the original flawed survey should be responsible for the costs that resulted in their flawed surveys.

Why should the tax payer have to pay for this gross incompetence?

Let’s not forget that this mistake not only cost a whopping great £400,000 hole in the project budget, but also led to lengthy delays to piling works being undertaken in Pier Road.

2. Timescale Flaws

Again throughout the consultation project, the Environment Agency’s Project team were questioned as to their timescales with traders expressing concern that the project couldn’t be delivered in such a small window.

These concerns were dismissed and the arrogant ‘we’re doing similar schemes all over the country’ became their stock-standard response.

When you look now at the sheer technical problems this project poses, you’d have to be an idiot not to be able to see that the construction of Littlehampton’s Sea Defences could be achieved in as little as six months.

We were told by the then site manager that the piling in Pier Road would take 30 days. This during a consultation meeting. When asked by one of the traders in Pier Road how many piles would be needed to complete Pier Road, this was met with an embarrassing silence.

Who could honestly have any faith in a site manager who tells a group that piling can be completed in 30 days when he hasn’t even worked out how many piles would be needed?

In fact, it took the owner of a fish and shop to tell him how many piles would be needed and dig him out of the embarrassing hole he’d dug himself.

And, the piling in Pier Road is ongoing and has been since January and expected to be completed in May. A total of 5 months.

And we’re expected to pay for this level of competency?

3. Incompetent management

The contract responsible for constructing the scheme’s Site Manager has now been replaced.

I don’t intend to speculate on the reasons why he’s gone, but telling us that he could complete piling in Pier Road in 30 days might give you some idea. In any event, his replacement appears to have achieved more tangible results in the one month or so he’s been here, than what his predecessor didn’t manage to achieve in more than six months.

Why should the tax payer pay for incompetent site management?

4. Grossly underestimating compensation for Traders

Easy to see now why getting a fair deal on compensation was so difficult.

Clearly the Environment Agency hadn’t figured on just how great the impact would be on businesses trading in Pier Road.

Again, these concerns were brought (and continually brought) to the Project Team during the consultation process.

I suggested that the Environment Agency’s Project team undertake a survey of business activity in Pier Road in order to give them a better feel as to just how much their works were likely to cost us in terms of lost business.

These concerns were dismissed and no surveys undertaken – however the Project Team did spend time monitoring the comings and goings of fish in the River Arun and accessing the potential impact that their works might have on sea bass.

As we know now, businesses in Pier Road have been devastated by these works, which are ongoing and these losses are now set to increase seeing as the works will  continue throughout the summer period.

A once vibrant and brilliantly independent business location is now reliant on state-handouts to keep the lights on.

5. Excessive and ever-increasing ‘professional fees’.

What’s become clear with this project is that the Environment Agency is nothing more than a group of walking, talking pen pushers.

Any expertise/professional service  that’s required has to be bought in – and at considerable costs.

Whether it’s to assess trader’s compensation claims, or make a decision as to the type of pile used, the Environment Agency’s Project Team are either unable, unqualified or unwilling to undertake these tasks which then have to be farmed out private practices to provide.

Consequently costs spiral.

Ultimately, we (Pier Road Traders) were led to believe right throughout the lengthy consultation process that the Environment Agency has agreed a fixed cost contract for the works.

It’s unacceptable now that they’ve quite literally cocked up so much that we the local tax payer are not only having to fund their incompetence by way of providing additional monies, but also are seeing what was a somewhat under whelming public realm now being reduced further as they’ve overspent.

I have no doubt that Monday night’s Cabinet Meeting at Arun District Council will approve the additional funding – after all – what choice have they got?

In any event, it’s unacceptable that the public should pay for incompetence.

The Environment Agency will of course blame the weather and any other convenient peg they can hang their problems on. However, what they can’t get away from is that they fact that the fundamental principles behind this project were seriously flawed and data provided by expensive experts has proved detrimental to the costs and duration of this scheme.

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Latest update on Littlehampton’s Sea Defences. Environment Agency answers your questions.

Earlier this week, I caught up with Andrew Walker from the Environment Agency and asked him if the Environment Agency would provide a detailed update that I could share with readers of the Pier Road Diaries.

Despite being over-run with weather and dealing with constant and dangerous flooding problems, Andrew and his team have found the time to provide this useful update for Littlehampton’s residents and business owners.

When will the Works now be completed?

The works in Pier Road and Arun Parade are currently forecast to be completed in autumn 2014.

2.    What caused this delay?

There are four main reasons for the delay we are currently experiencing:

1.    Adverse weather, including; a 30 year extreme high tide event, multiple days of gale force winds and largest amount of December rainfall in the Arun catchment since 1934. The wettest January on record.

2.    Multiple crane and crane rig breakdowns, as well as other technical issues with mechanical plant.

3.    A number of complex and very important safety issues regarding locating the crane on the existing riverside area (temporary works).

4.    The drawings for Arun Parade and Pier Road have recently been finalised, this has led to some increases in the amount of time required on site.

 

3.    Why didn’t you know about these safety issues before the start of the works?

Our original method of works was to stand the cranes in Arun Parade and Pier Road on standard crane mats. Following on from a detailed analysis of the existing structures it became evident that there was a significant risk of a catastrophic slip circle failure of the existing structure. This has led to a redesign of the structures which support the cranes.

4.    Why didn’t you factor weather delays into your programme?

We did factor in typical winter weather into our construction programme. To date, this winter’s weather has been exceptional.

We have experienced nearly 4 month’s rain in 2 weeks in December. January was the wettest on record and February is forecast to continue experiencing further low pressure systems. More importantly, we have experienced a larger than average number of gale force wind events throughout December and January.

When average wind speeds increase above 13m/s, crane operations on site are suspended for safety reasons. Using the crane to drive the steel sheet piles is a critical item of work on site. This is why high wind speeds can have a negative impact on the construction works.

 5.    What are you doing about this delay?

We have already started doing some work at the weekends, in order to try and minimise the impacts. We are continuing to work with Arun District Council Environmental Health team to explore the opportunities to reduce the construction programme by working at weekends.

We are looking for every opportunity to maximise efficiency to start to regain lost time. For example, we will continue to explore the opportunities for weekend working, we will look to increase site construction hours as the days get longer, we will advertise in the local press that Pier Road remains open for business, we will change fencing alignments wherever possible to create more room on footpaths and we will attempt to reopen sections of both road as soon as works are completed.

6.    How do we know that the delays won’t increase further?

We are working with the best available information that we have at the current time. There is the potential for our forecast construction time on site to increase or decrease, depending on a number factors. We will always keep you updated on our scheduled construction programme.

7.    What is Arun Parade/Pier Road going to look like through the summer?

The piling works will be complete and the large cranes will be off site. There will be on-going construction works of the concrete capping beam, retaining walls and public realm enhancements.

8.    What are the effects of the delay? Where will they be felt?

The increase in the construction time means that Pier Road and Arun Parade will be closed through the summer. The project board agreed that this approach was preferable to closing down the site and remobilising after summer.

9.    Will the road still be closed throughout the summer?

Pier Road and Arun Parade will remain closed to vehicular traffic over the summer (dependent on approval from the Highways Authority). We will do everything we can to minimise the impacts of the road closures.

 Where possible we will undertake a staggered reopening when sections of the work are completed.

If we are able to we will realign the site perimeter fencing in places, in order to improve pedestrian access to the businesses on Pier Road and Arun Parade.

10.  What is being done to restore public confidence in visiting Littlehampton?

We will continue to publicise that Pier Road and Arun Parade are open to visitors through various local media outlets. We welcome any ideas which you may have regarding publicising businesses in the local area.

11.  Can’t you just close the works and start again at the end of the summer?

The decision was taken by the project board that in order to minimise disruption to residents, businesses and visitors, that site works will continue through the summer months. There was concern that closing the site, leaving the area half constructed, and returning later in the year would result in more disruption for local people.

This option has been assessed by the project team and discounted due to the following reasons;

·         The piling is scheduled to be completed before the start of the summer, whilst the landscaping works would only be partially completed;

·         There would be addition temporary works require making the site safe for the public (temporary handrail, surfacing), these works would be abortive and add to the project costs;

·         Continuing through the summer brings opportunities to increase productivity  due to increased daylight hours and better weather;

·         Compensation will potentially cost more during the summer, but there are opportunities to minimise these costs by further advertising, and opening up completed sections.

My thanks to Andrew and the Project Team at the Environment Agency for taking the time out to update the Pier Road Diaries Readers.

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Latest Update on Littlehampton Sea Defences

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.