A very Happy Christmas to all our customers and readers.

All of the businesses in Pier Road would like to take this opportunity to wish all our customers (and readers of this blog) a very happy and peaceful Christmas and thanks for all your support in 2013.

Our thanks also to the team at the Environment Agency – Andrew Walker, Peter Borsberry, Sam Munnings for their help and support during this year and consulting with us. Likewise thanks to Roger and Rachel at Arun District Council, John Edjvet (Town Centre Manager) and finally a big thanks to Eric Smethurst from VolkerStevin for brightening up Pier Road during what is proving to be a difficult time for most of us.

The latest update from the scheme is that the piling works are now 4 weeks behind schedule with no piling having taken place in Pier Road at all. It’s disappointing for everyone, but the scheme’s contractor’s are keen to stress that a four week delay in piling doesn’t mean the scheme is 4 week’s behind.

On Friday 20th December the works will pause for the Christmas break and will resume again on the 6th January 2014.

Other important news is that Arun District Council have announced they have (with immediate effect) suspended their ongoing enforcement of the parking regulations in the area behind the Road Closed Signs in South Terrace. This being the area in front of Riverside Fish Kiosk. This area has seen extraordinary, and in my view unforgivable over-attention by Arun’s Traffic Wardens, which regrettably has had an enormous impact on visitors to our area with associated loss of trade. Why this area became the subject of such aggressive enforcement is not clear, but given that this area of the road is clearly marked as ‘ROAD CLOSED’, it’s easy to see why visitors parked here.

Thankfully, common sense has finally prevailed and West Sussex County Council are introducing a half-hour waiting maximum waiting area in this area of South Terrace, which will be helpful.

Arun District Council Traffic WardensThe area behind the above signs had been the subject of intense and prolonged ticketing by Arun District Council’s Traffic Wardens or CEO’s as they’re called. This area was regularly visited by Arun’s Parking Enforcement Officers who demanded those who were parked there to move or face ticketing. Unattended vehicles were ticketed. It’s absolutely incredible that given the relatively small size of this area (approx 100 metres on only one side of the road – left hand side), and that the road itself is clearly marked as ROAD CLOSED that the area was the subject of such intense activity by Arun District Council. The effect of their unnecessary, bizarre actions has resulted in a dramatic loss of business for businesses in Pier Road.

Thankfully, common sense has finally prevailed (thanks to West Sussex County Council)  you can now park in this area for up to a half an hour.

Please remember if you’re visiting Pier Road – there is a free car parking area provided by Arun District Council for all visitors and customers of Pier Road. This car park is located in the West Green Car Park – this being the square, almost tiled area just in front of the Windmill Public House. It’s clearly marked – Car Parking for Pier Road  – just make sure you’re parked in the area provided.

DSCF3157Here’s a picture of Pier Road as it is now (22nd December 2013)  having been closed since October 2013.

Pier Road closedHere’s a picture of how it was the day after it was closed.

The differences being:

  1. Fence erected
  2. Bins removed
  3. Green kiosk removed
  4. An area of the pavement has been leveled with tarmac.

The only real activity that we’ve actually seen in Pier Road has been the over-zealous, unwanted and destructive attentions of Arun District Council’s Traffic Wardens and the near annihilation of our businesses.

Other than that, a very, very happy Christmas from the Pier Road Diaries – thanks very much to all our readers for taking the time to visit, and all our contributors for taking the time to share your views.

Catch up with you all in the New Year.

Paul

Littlehampton’s West Bank, a victim of flooding and government targets….

Sadly, homes and business properties on Littlehampton’s West Bank/Beach area have experienced flooding following last night’s tidal surges.

Earlier today I spoke to one resident who told me he and his wife had spent the day out shopping to replace their water damaged electrical goods including fridge and cooker. He described the water coming over the top of wall as frightening. ‘A bit like how you’d imagine your worst nightmare but thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.’

It wasn’t just residential properties that have been affected. Business owners on the Riverside Industrial Estate have been left with extensive water damage to their properties, which will obviously have an adverse effect on their businesses.

To be fair to the Environment Agency (EA) they issued flood warnings – I tweeted one for the Rope tackle area late last night when it appeared on the EA’s website.

It’s important to note that there were no such flood warnings for the East Bank area  – this being the area where the current sea defence works are taking place, which would appear to highlight the fact that the West Bank is at greater risk of flooding from the sea than the East Bank.

So why given £14m is being spent on the East Bank is not a penny available for the West Bank – a matter of only a few metres across the River Arun?

Surely common sense would suggest that if one side of the River Arun is at risk of flooding, then so too will the opposite side?

Alas, I’m afraid it’s all down to targets. You see in order for the Environment Agency to bid for the £14million funding they’ve managed to secure, there was one important caveat – that being there needed to be at least 700 homes at risk of flooding. Just imagine we would have missed out if the EA’s bid could only guarantee flood protection for say 699 homes…

Doesn’t bear thinking about it. Thank goodness they found 700 homes.

As I said, we’re living in a government led target driven society.

Since the consultation process began with the Environment Agency, (over 2 years ago)  a number of us, including myself have questioned the logic of improving the East Bank sea defences while doing nothing with the West Bank.

I believe that you can’t build up one side without having an impact on the other side, after all this is a river we’re talking about?

I got so wound up about this particular issue that some time ago I wrote a post “The Miracle Of Littlehampton Harbour”. Here’s the link to it, if you haven’t already ready it. It’s worth revisiting, especially now.

When Andrew Walker from the Environment Agency kindly agreed to take part in an earlier interview for the Pier Road Diaries, I asked Andrew about the West Bank and here’s my original question (in bold) followed by Andrew’s answer in italics.

There’s a certain amount of skepticism surrounding these works. Understandable when you consider that the Environment Agency is only enhancing the sea defences on the East Bank, which surely will have a potentially devastating impact on the West Bank. Why has this area of the harbour been left to the mercy of the rising sea levels that the Environment Agency are predicting and what reassurances can you give the residents and businesses of this area that what you’re doing on the East Bank isn’t going to accelerate their demise?

AW: The construction of the new flood defences on the East bank will have no negative impact on the West bank. Once the works are completed the tide will continue to rise and fall in the way it always has done in Littlehampton. You are right though; sea levels are predicted to rise.

At the current time there are a comparatively low number of houses and businesses on the west bank. This means attracting government funding for a major flood defence scheme is difficult.

There will come a point where something needs to be done to improve the height of the flood defences on the West bank of the river Arun in Littlehampton. Much like the current East bank scheme, this future work will need to be delivered in partnership, which means input from local authorities and the wider Littlehampton community will be key to protecting the West bank from tidal river flooding.

—————-

Two important things to note here.

1. The Environment Agency do not believe that the construction of the Sea Defences on the East Bank will have any adverse affect on the West Bank.

2. There ain’t and won’t be any money available from the government to build the necessary sea defences for the West Bank as there aren’t enough houses or businesses here.

With regard to number 1 above.  I have always disagreed with the Environment Agency on this one, (as they know and I won’t bore them again with my logic), but I do hope they’re right and I’m wrong. But I cannot see how raising the bank on one side of a river, as well as taking away the gentle sloping bank will not have an adverse effect on the other side which has not been built up to compensate.

However, in relation to number 2 – It’s easy to see where this is going. The argument is no longer about improving sea defences for the West Bank, but shifting the sand conveniently onto – this area needs lots more houses if we are to guarantee its future.

Something that I am sure will sit conveniently with Arun District Council’s current policy of building as many houses as they possibly can to infuriate as many residents as they possibly can while courting the big name property developers who in turn will pay them cash bonuses (aka – Section 106 monies) to fund their pet projects (St Martin’s Car Park feasibility studies etc), as well as paying consultants to come up with more daft ideas.

As I said, sadly we’re living in a target driven society where common sense is as rare these days as an honest politician.

Our thoughts are with those on the West Bank who’ve been affected by the flooding.

Littlehampton Sea Defences, latest update; crane has a new engine and we’re back on track..

After a disappointing and frustrating start for everyone, the construction of Littlehampton’s Sea Defences are now back on track now that the £1.3m crane has been fitted with its new engine.

At a meeting earlier this week, Andy Hills, VolkerStevin’s Site manager talked to traders and explained that while it was frustrating for everyone that the scheme had fallen now three weeks behind schedule, he was hopeful that they would catch up. ‘Now that the crane has been repaired,’ he said, ‘we can really move ahead and start on the piling works.’

While answering questions in relation to why there was only one crane and one crew operating as opposed to the two cranes and two crews as per the original plan (one for Pier Road and a separate one for Arun Parade), Andy explained that owing to the narrow working space they couldn’t bring the second crane in to be assembled while they needed space to fit a replacement engine to the original crane. ‘It’s frustrating,’ he said. ‘But we’re there now as the replacement engine was flown especially in from Austria and arrived in only two days.’

As Arun District Council’s Environment Agency granted VolkerStevin temporary dispensation to work this weekend on ‘light works’ (ie, those which don’t cause any potential noise nuisance) work began in earnest yesterday, Saturday morning to fit the first of the steel works as pictured below.

Littlehampton Sea Defences first steels being installedA historic moment in the construction of Littlehampton’s Sea Defences. The picture above shows the first installation of Steel into the original sea wall. The green and red colours in the background are the Noise Reduction Panels that are attached to the Haras fencing where the work is taking place.

Littlehampton sea defences Arun ParadeAndy Hill’s explained that a second crane will be arriving early this coming week (week commencing 2nd December 2013) and this crane will be working in Pier Road, thus returning to the original plan – 2 cranes operating at the same time with 2 crews.Andy explained that the piling should begin all being well this week.

I bumped into Andy a number of times yesterday,( Saturday) and he was clearly delighted  that Arun District Council have granted a temporary works order to allow them work during this weekend on what Andy described as ‘light work’, which wouldn’t involve any heavy duty piling or anything that would cause any excess noise. Andy’s enthusiasm for this project is infectious and I felt like leaving my shop, grabbing a shovel and coming out and helping him…

Later in the evening, I found him still walking around in high-viz jacket, still working…

Also this week, I finally got a chance to catch up with Eric Smethurst, VolkerStevin’s Public Liaison Manager and visit his recently opened Information Centre.

Eric Smethurst VolkerStevinI popped in on Eric when he was in full flight giving a talk to a couple of local residents who had visited his Drop In Information Centre, which is located just above the Oyster Pond and just below Riverside Fish Kiosk.

You can’t help but be moved by Eric’s enthusiasm and his infectious laughter. A veteran of these schemes, Eric has worked on a number of successful sea defence schemes constructed by VolkerStevin on behalf of the Environment Agency, and it shows. His easy manner, his knowledge and particularly his ability to explain complex engineering to the lay person is admirable, to say the least.

When the visitors left,  Eric explained his role in a greater detail.

“I’m primarily here,’ he said ‘to ensure that the public and local business owners have a dedicated point of contact. Someone who they can ask questions of, and help solving any logistical problems they might be having.”

He’s certainly achieving his goals as I know all of the business owners in Pier Road have found Eric not only to be extremely helpful in their dealing with him, but also enjoy his presence. Eric is a big man in every respect. Taller than most, widely travelled. Eric spent over 20 years living and breathing engineering  projects in America.

‘So where are you from originally?’ I ask as if it’s not obvious.

‘Durham,’ Eric says. But obviously I’ve spent a lot of time in the States.

‘So what can the public expect if they pop in and see you?’

‘Well, ‘ Eric says, ‘they can ask any questions they might have and also see plans of the build and as well as visuals of how the scheme will look post construction. I’m also going to have a slide projection shows, and we’ll have a real-life example of the actual sheet piles being used in the build.’

Eric Smethurst Volkerstevin manager 2Eric demonstrating how the piling will work.

‘Are you just based here?’ I ask.

‘Gosh, no,’ Eric says. ‘No, once we’re into the project I’ll be visiting the local schools and giving talks to the local school children on what’s happening in their town and how the build will create a better future for them. It’s great fun,” he says. “You’d be surprised at how environmentally-aware school children are. When we were working in Glasgow, we had to cut down a whole row of trees to build the new wall. When I visited the schools, I’d have hundreds of young children staring accusingly at me  all demanding to know why we’d cut down their trees..’

“But you turned them around?”

Eric pauses for a moment, ‘They might be young, but they’re not stupid they can understand anything once you take the time to explain it to them. Once they understood why the trees had to go we worked with them to come up with a planting scheme for replacement trees and it really was great fun.

Eric Smethurst Volker Stevin ManagerEric Smethurst, Public Liaison Manager, VolkerStevin welcoming visitors to the Environment Agency Scheme’s Drop in Information Centre located just in front of the Oyster Pond.

Eric’s Drop in Centre is open every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – 8am to 4pm. All are very welcome.

Littlehampton Sea Defences artists impression post worksJust one of a number of artists impressions of how the finished scheme will look that you can see in Eric’s Drop in Centre.

Remember, to keep abreast of all that’s going on in Pier Road – please follow Pier Road on twitter @Pier_road  and to get regular blog updates from the Diaries, just enter your email address in the top right side of this page to subscribe to the Diaries.

Coming shortly, I catch up on a local regeneration scheme in River Road – one that had it’s fair share of controversy at the planning stage, but is now nearing completion.

As always, thanks for reading.

Paul