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

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