The Pier Road Diaries Environment Agency Pier Road Regeneration Plans on Hold?

Pier Road Regeneration Plans on Hold?

As we’ve come to expect, after a number of high-profile publicity announcements by Arun District Council and the Environment Agency regarding their proposed £12m Flood Defences and Pier Road Regeneration, silence.

When the silence became so deafening, I decided to email the Chief Executive of Arun District Council, Nigel Lynn  to ask for an update.

Here is his reply:

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Dear Paul,

Further to my email below, I have now received further information from my officers and reply to you more fully.

Arun is very aware of the importance of early communication with local people and businesses, particularly if there could be a direct impact on them as a result of the work when it is on site.  We very much appreciate the time and effort that has already been put to this project by a large number of local people and businesses and we look forward to continuing this over the coming period of this project 

 As time has moved on, Arun has called on the Environment Agency (EA) to convene a Project Board meeting to discuss progress and timescales for the project.  This is happening next week.  Last year/early this year the EA and Arun District Council were giving an indicative commencement date for the enhanced flood defence project as around Autumn 2012.  This indicative date has always been subject to the EA securing all the funding and other approvals necessary.  I expect next weeks meeting to confirm where the EA are with obtaining final approval for the project and its funding from their national board and where they are with the detailed design work, planning application and other statutory approvals as far as they may be needed. This will allow the EA and Arun to provide a factual update and future plan of action to the public and local businesses ASAP.

 The start on site of this major project (including the Arun funded enhancements) will of course be advised well in advance of it happening and there will be more information made available to the public as soon as we are able to get greater clarity on dates from the EA and their engineering consultants.  The Project, and especially the enhancements, are considered very important for the regeneration of the town and the Council is firmly committed to working with the EA to deliver them.  You will be aware of the substantial funding that the Council has already allocated and we look forward to progressing with the work as soon as it practicable.

 I hope that this information is helpful by way of an update.

 Yours sincerely
Nigel Lynn

Chief Executive

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I asked the same question to the Environment Agency, and here’s their initial reply from Peter Borsberry, Project Manager. Environment Agency.

Dear Mr Power,

Thank you for your email.

Last month we received technical approval for the project and despite the economic climate, we have managed to secure the significant funding to start the next phase of the scheme. This phase, known as the implementation phase, includes developing detailed designs, carrying out site investigations to inform the design, and purchasing the sheet piles that are required for the scheme.

We will be undertaking further Ground Investigations to obtain information about the soil conditions below Arun Parade and Pier Road to determining the physical properties of the soils and chalk. These investigations are vital for the final foundation design for the new flood defence wall. This will in turn allow millions of pounds worth of steel sheet piling for the project to be ordered and manufactured in readiness for the project’s start on site. The works are planned to start when most of the schools holidays are over in early September and will hopefully be completed by the end of October.

Over the coming months we will be contacting landowners, local businesses and other organisations to ensure we are taking into account any concerns they may have about the works that will be carried out along and adjacent to the riverside .

I hope this is sufficient information for the time being, as we are only beginning the detail design phase of the scheme and we are still formalising our plans.   

 Regards

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Mr Borsberry’s reply raised a number of serious concerns:

  1. What they’re proposing would surely involve/required traffic flow alterations, which could include road and footpath closures.
  2. The timing of these works, scheduled to begin early September when the ‘schools holiday are over’, demonstrates a very poor knowledge of Pier Road’s visitor profile. For once the school’s return, Pier Road becomes busy with a whole new wave of visitors eager to enjoy what’s viewed by many as the last month of summer before the clocks go back.

I emailed Peter Borsberry again to ask for specifics in relation to his proposed works, specifically, was he planning road closures, what would be the likely environmental impact regarding noise etc.

Here’s the reply:

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Dear Paul,

Thank you for your email.

Survey work to locate buried services is likely to take place in week commencing 3rd September.  We anticipate that when the survey work is being undertaken along Pier Road and a one-way traffic system will be required.  However, this should only be for a relatively short period of time, approximately 1 day maximum.  These works should not generate any noise disruption. 

The proposed programme anticipates that intrusive works are likely to commence along Pier Road week commencing 10th September and be completed by 21st September.  The works will comprise two cable percussive holes with and one cone penetration test hole. 

As a minimum, a one-way traffic system will be required for the entire duration of the intrusive works in Pier Road.  A full road closure is not anticipated at this stage. 

It is likely that the footpath in Pier Road adjacent to the River Arun will be closed for the intrusive works.  However, efforts will be made to keep this open when possible. 

 A hand dug inspection pit will be undertaken at each location initially.  A breaker / concrete corer may be used to help facilitate excavation of these pits.  If a breaker is employed it will generate some noise.  Due to the presence of multiple services along this corridor of the road, it is also likely that additional inspection pits will be undertaken to positively identify buried services.

 Cable percussive drilling is required to get through the upper ground (approximately 10m) and into the top of the chalk.  It is anticipated that cable percussive drilling will take between 2-4 days.  Some of the activities associated with the cable percussive drilling will generate noise.  However, the noise generated will be intermittent and associated with the percussive part of the drilling and the in-situ testing only. 

The work will be confined to the hours of 8am to 6pm.  Noisy activities will be limited to between 9am to 6pm.  Appropriate fencing and signage will be used for the traffic management system and security of equipment left overnight.  Reinstatement of the exploratory locations will be undertaken as soon as is reasonably practicable after completion of the intrusive works. 

We will do our best to minimise disruption to you during this period.

The contractor is developing their risk assessment and method statements.  These can be forwarded with the traffic management plan in due course if required.

Regards

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My fears/concerns were well-founded.

Essentially, Mr Borsberry was planning to create one-way traffic flow in Pier Road and also close off the footpath nearest the river-side to allow his ‘investigative’ works to take place.

So, no consultation with either business owners or local residents in Pier Road that the Environment Agency were planning some pretty major changes to their road layout for over a month during one of potentially the busiest month of the year.

Here’s a reminder of what the Chief Executive of Arun District Council, Nigel Lynn, promised in his email (copied above):

“Arun is very aware of the importance of early communication with local people and businesses, particularly if there could be a direct impact on them as a result of the work when it is on site.  We very much appreciate the time and effort that has already been put to this project by a large number of local people and businesses and we look forward to continuing this over the coming period of this project

Clearly in this instance there has been no ‘early communication’ in fact no communication at all would have been forthcoming had I not asked what was going on. And as for ‘…particularly if there could be a direct impact on them as a result of the work when it is on site‘. The fact that the Environment Agency intended to essentially turn Pier Road, Littlehampton into a one-way traffic flow for a few weeks and close off the pavements without as much as a nod in our direction makes a mockery of this claim.

My understanding of the Highway’s Act makes it mandatory for anyone planning to undertake pre-planned works (as opposed to emergency works) to notify the public in advance and obtain licences and permits from the Highway’s Agency.

So, I contacted West Sussex County Council’s Highway Agency to see if they had granted the Environment Agency permission to alter traffic flows, close off pavements etc.

The Highways Department informed me that the Environment Agency would be legally required to make an application for permission for their proposed works.

Highways, confirmed that no Section 50 Application had been lodged by any party in relation to proposed traffic alterations for Pier Road.  They also confirmed they were unaware of the Environment Agencies proposed works.

Here is what the Highways Agency state in their ‘Notes for Applicants for a S50’ in relation to timescales:

In order for the Highways Agency to comply with its statutory duty, all applications must be submitted for Standard works at least 2 months in advance of commencement of the proposed works.

When I contacted the Environment Agency again asking why they hadn’t applied for the necessary permissions, they informed they had, however they finally agreed that they had actually only just done so, following my calls to The Highways Department.

Note their plans is to begin works in a couple of weeks time, when the law states they must give at least 2 months notice.

Here’s their email reply:

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Mr Power,
Following your telephone call this afternoon, I will request Peter calls you immediately upon his return to the office.
With regard to your concerns about applications for undertaking site investigation I can advise you of the following; we have been in discussion with West Sussex County Council Streetworks department, (Darren Pring), who has forwarded us the necessary Section 50 NRSWA Application forms for a ‘Streetworks Licence’Pack 1’ (New Road and Streetworks Act, 1991 Section 50 refers). We have the forms for River Road, WSCC Application Ref, 00002261, and Pier Road/Arun Parade WSCC Application Ref 00002259. The desiganted Highways Inspector on these forms is Shaun Prior.
Regards
Andy
Littlehampton East bank Senior User

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It’s shocking, and in my view, entirely unacceptable that a Statutory Public Body such as the Environment Agency can believe they can ignore their statutory obligations in relation to these proposed works.

Also unacceptable is the fact that Arun District Council’s senior officers have sat on their hands and essentially left them to it.

Representatives from Pier Road Traders are due to meet representatives from The Environment Agency and Arun District Council at 6pm on Thursday, August 30th 2012 to discuss matters.

I hope we can look forward to some proper consultation where we can all mutually work together in Pier Road and Littlehampton’s best interest.

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