The Sea Defences are delayed because: “We don’t have enough Welders…”

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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Latest pictures of the construction of Littlehampton’s Sea Defences & last week’s dramatic RNLI Rescue

Some pictures of the ongoing construction of Littlehampton’s Sea Defences.

I took these pictures end of January/first week of February, 2014.

Construction of Littlehampton's sea defences 3The piles are lifted in place using one of two cranes, which are currently in operation in Arun Parade, Littlehampton.

Piling gateThe piles are loaded into a ‘piling gate’ which has been especially designed and constructed for the project. (Picture courtesy of Eric Smethurst  – VolkerStevin)

Construction of Littlehampton's sea defencesEach piles is marked out in metres markers – I believe each pile is 22 metres long.

Construction of Littlehampton's sea defences 4Each pile is then driven into the riverbed by a combination of vibrating it down and then finally banging it into place. The noise you can hear regularly in Littlehampton is the piles being driven into their final positions by the above machine.

Sea Defence construction Arun Parade 8Pile being driven home.

Sea Defence construction Arun Parade 9This picture gives a better view of the piling gate, which also creates a working platform.

Sea defences in Arun Parade LittlehamptonThis is what they look like when they’re all finally in place. The above is a picture of how Arun Parade is looking like now. Some observers has expressed concern that the new sea defences don’t go high enough. When I catch up with Eric next, I’ll ask him for an answer from an engineering perspective. Appearances can be deceptive.

Construction of Littlehampton's sea defences 6This is how Littlehampton’s Arun Parade is shaping up now.

LittlehamptonWorking on the junction of Arun Parade and Pier Road

Construction of Littlehampton Sea Defences 7The piles all in place along the Southern end of Arun Parade.

Sea Defence construction Arun Parade 11Piling at Arun Parade.

Piling works at Arun ParadePiles being driven in at Arun Parade (Littlehampton seafront’s iconic light house in the right of the picture)

littlehampton sea defence construction craneClearly the road surface of Pier Road is not able to take the weight of the crane, which is of particular concern to us here in Pier Road. The vibrations from the piling far exceed what most of us expected. There’s also understandable concern for the integrity of our buildings during these works. Many of Pier Road business owners live above their businesses.

Entrance to Littlehampton harbourTide flowing into Littlehampton harbour. A confused and dangerous sea. This picture was taken just a short time before a lady was swept out to sea. Despite being rescued by Littlehampton RNLI, she passed away later in hospital.

Coastguard helicopterThe Coastguard helicopter flying over Littlehampton Harbour assisting with the rescue.

Air AmbulanceAir Ambulance also attended.

Air Ambulance 2Air Ambulance leaving Littlehampton.

cropped-dscf0234.jpgLittlehampton’s RNLI rescued the lady from the sea, quite literally a few minutes after she first went in. (above is a picture of them on a previous emergency call out). We’re very fortunate here in Littlehampton to have such a dedicated, hardworking local volunteer crew who go out in all weathers and sea conditions.

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the lady who passed away.

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.