Environment Agency close Littlehampton’s River Road and install temporary flood defences

The Environment Agency have today installed temporary flood defences in Littlehampton’s East Bank, despite recently spending over £22.5 on building new flood defences.

In what could only be described as a national disgrace, the Environment Agency have now closed a section of River Road in Littlehampton to build temporary flood defences in preparation of tonight’s tidal surge.

Picture – courtesy, Terry Ellis.

Temporary flood defences erected by Environment Agency in Littlehampton’s River Road.

This, the same area where the Environment Agency recently completed a £22.5m Flood Defence scheme, but stubbornly refused to complete a section of the flood defence improvements, citing it was the responsibility of the landowner.  Something the landowner strongly refutes.

Rather than simply press on and build the disputed section of the flood defence wall, arguing who was responsible later, the Environment Agency’s local senior management team including  Mr David Robinson, Environment Agencies Operations Manager (East) and Mr James Humphrys, Environment Agency Area Director – decided instead to leave a gap in the new defence wall.

The gap in the flood defence wall, which poses a series flood risk to local residents and businesses.

Work on either side of the ‘gap’ was completed by the Environment Agency and the landowner, with the area where responsibility being disputed, left unattended and at risk of flooding.

Environment Agency staff working at constructing temporary flood defences in Littlehampton, earlier today – Friday 13th January 2017.

I covered this a recent blog post and asked David Robinson from the Environment Agency as to when he expected this gap to be finally blocked up, he replied by email as follows:

Dear Paul
 
Thank you for your email.
 
Littlehampton is better protected from flooding today than ever before following the construction of the East Bank Flood defences.  You are right that there is one area at Riverside Autos in River Road where the standard of protection that the private defences provide is lower than the new flood wall elsewhere.  Unfortunately, it was not possible to simply carry on the piling in front of the Riverside Autos site when we became aware that it was not going to be developed. 
 
Since September 2015 we have had a robust plan in place to deploy dedicated temporary flood defences which are stored in our Chichester depot.  These defences are similar to those you may have seen in the media during the winter floods of 2015/16 which have been used successfully many times.  We have not permanently installed the barrier at Riverside Autos to allow the current occupiers to continue to operate their business however we will deploy the barrier when the weather forecast and tide levels are predicted to be above particular trigger levels.  We last tested our plan in October 2015 and have not been needed to deploy the barrier at any time since then.
 
As you know, I had hoped to have a permanent solution in place by now but this has not been possible.  We continue to work with the landowners and our contractors to build the defences which I am hopeful will be in place by winter 2017-18.
 
Yours sincerely
 
Dave
 
David Robinson
Operations Manager (East)
Solent and South Downs Area
Environment Agency

 

As you can see from David Robinson’s reply, there is no solution to the problem, but wishful thinking on his part as to when the situation may be resolved.

As you can see in above picture, the Barge (in 2014) working on creating the new flood defence scheme positioned right in front of the gap, but still the Environment Agency refused to give the go ahead to complete this section of the defence wall.

An absolute disgrace.

In the meantime, while Mr Robinson sits on his hands achieves little or nothing, Littlehampton’s river road residents are now facing an ongoing flood risk, temporary road closures, disruption to services.

And who is footing the bill for these additional temporary flood defences? Certainly not the landowner, but the tax payer.

Arun District Council’s refuge contractors unable to empty bins in River Road earlier today owing to the Environment Agency’s road closures.

A tarpaulin carelessly left blocking the pavement forcing a lady with a child and pushchair to squeeze beside a working vehicle.

Temporary Road Closures

The Environment Agency advise that the temporary road closure in River Road will remain in place until 9am, Saturday 14th January 2017 when the road will re-open again.

Littlehampton’s West Beach area

No additional flood defences appear to have been allocated today to Littlehampton’s West Beach area, this being the area that didn’t ‘benefit’ from the Environment Agencies £22.5m flood defence scheme.

Many (with the exception of the EA and their consultants) believe that the construction and enhancement of Littlehampton’s East Bank flood defence scheme, has created additional problems for the West Bank area. The Environment refuse to accept this view point.

Make up your own mind – but ask yourself, how can the Environment Agency be allowed to get away with spending over £22.5m on  a flood defence scheme that now ultimately relies on the crude apparatus pictured below.


As always, thanks for reading, your comments welcome.

 

 

 

Will the Environment Agency ever finish Littlehampton’s Flood Defences?

Despite spending in excess of £22.5million on flood defences in Littlehampton Harbour, the Environment Agency still have not completed the flood defence works – and a massive gap still remains in the new flood defence wall.

Hard to believe, that it was back in September 2012, the Environment Agency began constructing Littlehampton’s flood defence scheme. Yet, here we are, early 2017 and Littlehampton still hasn’t been protected from flooding.

Despite assurances made at the start of the project by Environment Agency Manager David Robinson and his colleagues, that their extensive, disruptive  works would ensure Littlehampton was protected from a future flooding event, a large flood-friendly gap has been left in the new flood defence wall.

As you can see in the above picture, a barge was commissioned to complete the works along this side of the River Road’s riverside frontage. My understanding is, that the Environment Agency are holding the landowner responsible for paying for the works to this particular stretch of the riverbank. However, the landowner disputes their liability.

Regardless of who is responsible, surely the sensible approach would have been for the Environment Agency’s contractors to have completed this remaining section of the flood defences while their contractors were already in the river area working on the flood defences and arguing liability at a later date?

Surely the potential costs of clearing up after a flooding event, far outweigh the savings made by leaving a gap in the flood defences? Given that the equipment needed to construct a flood defence wall in a harbour environment are expensive, to say the least – the costs of now returning to bridge this gap will be far in excess of the costs that would have been involved in making good the wall when the EA’s contractors were already in place.

In any event, at the time, the Environment Agency decided to withdraw their contractors, leaving the area with the massive gap you see in the above picture,  leaving a number of giant sandbags, (which can be seen in the picture)to be used in the event of a flooding crisis.

How can a government funded quango spend over £22.5m on creating what were described at the time as being ‘state of the art’ and we’re left with a number of giant sand bags to save the town from flooding?

More importantly, why have the local authorities who were partners in this project (primarily – Arun District Council, West Sussex County Council) remained silent on the situation and not demanded a remedy?

I’ve asked David Robinson, manager at the Environment Agency for an update on what they’re intending to do to bridge the gap and complete the flood defences that were promised.

I have also written to my MP Nick Gibb (Littlehampton MP) asking for his intervention.

I will update the blog with any replies, in the meantime I’d urge you to write to Nick Gibb, MP for Littlehampton to bring pressure on the Environment Agency to undertake and complete their statutory duties.

Nick Gibb MP, can be emailed at:  gibbn@parliament.uk

When I previously raised this issue back in 2016 – this story was taken up by the BBC including featuring on BBC South East News with Sean Killick, BBC Radio Sussex and other media outlets. At the time, David Robinson, Manager at the Environment Agency gave assurances that a permanent solution would be achieved.

We’re still waiting, Mr Robinson.


As always, thanks for reading, your comments welcome.

Paul

 

 

 

Southern Water forced to abandon emergency works in Pier Road owing to traffic chaos.

Now Updated with a reply from Southern Water (follows below main post)

Southern Water have been left looking like idiots this morning (Monday, 19th October) in Pier Road, Littlehampton.

On Friday, 16th October 2015 without any direct consultation or notification to local residents or businesses in Pier Road, representatives from Southern Water laid a number of ‘no parking cones’ along Pier Road announcing that emergency works would take place the following Monday and Tuesday.

Parking was suspended – with dire warnings of vehicles being towed away if they remain parked.

Southern Water works in PIer RoadAbove: Southern Water’s No Parking Signs which appeared without notice on Friday afternoon.

Then on Saturday, a traffic management system was dropped off and left on the pavement in Pier Road.

Southern Water emergency works in Pier Road, LittlehamptonAbove: Traffic control systems arrived on Saturday ready for Monday’s start..

And then today, Monday morning the contractors duly arrived in Pier Road ready to undertake the ’emergency works’ only to discover that as parking is permitted along both sides of the Pier Road carriage way, double lines being only seasonal, therefore rendering it impossible to close a single carriage way of Pier Road.

They would have known this had their officials bothered to check with local business owners and residents.

A child could easily work out that if you’re going to close one carriage of Pier Road, you’re going to need to suspend parking the entire length of Pier Road, and not just opposite and around the area you need to dig up.

Now that Southern Water have left Pier Road, to return at some undetermined time later to complete their emergency works, this begs the question as to how urgent these ’emergency works’ actually are?

Most of us would assume an emergency being something that requires immediate attention.

Not so when it comes to Southern Water.

But then addressing customer satisfaction is not something Southern Water are renowned for. In 2013 the company received the undesired accolade of being the most complained about utility company in the UK generating a staggering 23,000 complaints in one year alone. They did however, manage to generate pre-tax profits of £156.9m in the same year.

And why are these works necessary?

Pier Road has only recently being opened to vehicular traffic having been closed for almost 2 years during the Environment Agency’s protracted flood defences works.

Therefore it’s extremely worrying for residents and businesses in Pier Road, that despite over £22.5m being spent jointly by the Environment Agency, Arun District Council and West Sussex County Council that Southern Water are now planning to dig up Pier Road’s new surfaces.

To-date, my requests for an explanation from Southern Water as to why these works are required have been ignored.

So, we’re stuck with rumour.

Rumour has it in Pier Road that the reason for Southern Water’s emergency works it that the underground pipe works have been damaged as a result of the Environment Agency’s flood defence works and that flooding is now being experienced in roads behind Pier Road.

Whatever is going on, it’s not good news.

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen grim-faced senior representatives from the Environment Agency, Arun District Council and the Environment’s Agency’s contractors, VolkerStevin meeting in huddled groups along the new walkway. Steps have been measured, gradients measured, failing concrete examined and now Southern Water want to dig up part of the recently laid new road.

As for the chaotic nature of Pier Road’s traffic flow  I have previously (along with many others) made representations to West Sussex County Council’s Highways officers and senior officers at Arun District Council that re-opening Pier Road without any changes to the traffic flow and management was mistake.

How could anyone spend £22.5m on a massive regeneration programme for Pier Road and re-open Pier Road with a narrower road than previously, allow 2-way traffic and allow parking on both sides of Pier Road?

And as for Southern Water – In September 2015 this company was fined £160,000 with additional costs of £27,000 at Chichester Crown Court in a case brought against them by the Environment Agency. Southern Water had pumped over 40 million litres of untreated sewage into the sea off Worthing.

REPLY FROM SOUTHERN WATER

Emergency work in Pier Road, Littlehampton
19/10/2015

Southern Water applied to West Sussex County Council (WSCC) for an emergency works order at the end of September, to repair a 9″ main on Pier Road.

WSCC gave us permission to carry out these works on Monday 19 October.

We didn’t apply for a road closure, choosing instead to put up temporary traffic lights as a way of minimising disruption to residents and businesses. In the days leading up the works we notified residents by way of signage and cones – asking people not to park in the area on that date, to allow our workmen access.

SW understands that whilst vital, repairs can cause disruption and we seek to minimise this as much as possible – for example with the use of temporary traffic lights rather than road closures.

Unfortunately when we arrived to carry out the repair, cars were parked along the road, meaning our workmen were unable to put up the temporary traffic lights and therefore could not safely go ahead.

We will be reapplying to WSCC to carry out the works as a matter of urgency and would ask drivers to help us by keep an eye out for any work related ‘no parking’ signs.

ENDS.

PIER ROAD FURTHER OBSERVATION

So, Southern Water’s latest method of communication important information to their customers is via attaching notes to traffic cones, which are intermittently placed outside a few doors.

The statement doesn’t explain why the works are deemed as ’emergency works’ given that very obviously there’s no immediate requirement to fix/repair/replace anything.

Clearly another example of Southern Water riding rough-shod over local residents and businesses. If they’re not pumping untreated sewage into our seas and beaches, they’re abdicating their statutory obligations by sticking notes to traffic cones.

I despair, I really do.

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As always, your comments are welcome and thanks for reading.

 

Why aren’t the Environment Agency supporting UK steel industry

This week sees the sad and shock announcement that Redcar steel works in the North East of England has been put into liquidation threatening 2,200 jobs.

Given the enormous, ongoing massive investments in building new  flood defences, why is the Environment Agency continuing to source steel from abroad?

I’ve repeatedly put this question to the Environment Agency since 2013. My most recent request being in early August.

Thus far, no explanation.

I don’t think that’s good enough, do you?

Why are we buying steel from the Netherlands and beyond when we have steel plants here in the UK which are now facing closure owing to lack of sustainable orders?

Surely even if UK steel plants aren’t as competitive as elsewhere in the world, we should still support our home-grown industries – after all – what’s the likely cost of the lost of 2,200 jobs on the economy, let alone the costs of the loss of other ancillary businesses that will be undoubtedly be forced to close their doors also?

There may be a very good reason for why the Environment Agency doesn’t buy from UK steel plants.

But if so, why are they so reluctant to tell us?

The steel used to construct Littlehampton’s new flood defences was shipped from the suppliers in the Netherlands and the contract to build Littlehampton’s defences was awarded to the Dutch company, VolkerStevin.

It seems not only are the Environment Agency unwilling to support the struggling UK steel industry, but also continue to award highly lucrative construction contracts to companies outside of the UK.

Gareth Stace, Director of Trade Association of UK Steel  says they’re operating in an unsustainable situation. He says: “Chinese imports were 2pc of UK steel demand in the first half of 2011, that’s expected to be 8pc this year. Britain’s steel makers also face a strong pound, high energy costs, environmental levies and high business rates that foreign competitors don’t.”

So ironically, the UK’s steel industry is facing unfair and punitive environmental levies and extortionate business rates.

Why are UK industries having to pay punitive environmental tax levies, while their competitors don’t?

Why are we the UK tax payer funding the Environment Agencies extensive flood defence building schemes, when the steel and construction contracts are not being awarded to UK companies?

Surely we’re better off paying higher prices for steel sourced in the UK than paying the financial and social costs of massive job losses – particularly in area of the UK where jobs aren’t easy to find.

And as for the low carbon footprint nonsense

The Environment Agency made great play of the fact that they had insisted the steel for use in Littlehampton’s flood defences be transported by ship from the Netherlands as opposed to by road – thereby significantly reducing the project’s carbon foot print.

Walter HammannAbove steel arriving by ship from the Netherlands and being offloaded in River Road.

Once the steel arrived in Littlehampton harbour it was stored in Littlehamton Harbour Board’s storage area in River Road.

However, it’s here the Environment Agency’s low-carbon footprint plans fell apart.

In order to transport the steel from River Road to Pier Road (less than a mile) a road haulage company was appointed. Not a local based haulage company, but a London based company.

So for a over a year all the steel was transported from River Road to Pier Road – distance less than a mile – by a company who had to drive to and from London each time a batch of steel had to be moved.

A distance of over 112 miles driven for each occasion the steel had to be moved a distance of less than a mile.

Yet, Littlehampton is home to a number of quality transport companies.

How’s that for ensuring a ‘low carbon footprint.’?

Pretty much all hire vehicles/plant and machinery used for the construction of the flood defences came from Essex and beyond as the Environment Agency operate a ‘central procurement policy’ which means that they couldn’t source anything locally in Littlehampton as Littlehampton (and surrounding businesses) were not on the pre-agreed approved procurement list for contractors.

So even the most basic piece of plant machinery had to be transported relatively great distances by road in order to comply with the Environment Agency’s buying policy which is clearly at odds with the Environment Agency’s green credentials.

Our thoughts are with those facing loosing their jobs and a uncertain future at Redcar Steel works.

 

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As always, your comments are welcome.

Thanks for reading!

Please remember if you haven’t already to follow my twitter feed at @pier_road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Littlehampton’s Flood Defence completion celebrations cancelled owing to Flooding fears!

You couldn’t make this sort of stuff up.

The Environment Agency and Arun District Council have now officially cancelled their planned celebrations, which were due to take place to celebrate the completion of Littlehampton’s Flood Defence Scheme.

The reason?

Flood risk – as a result of the Environment Agency leaving a great big gap in Littlehampton’s new flood defences.

In correspondence seen by the Pier Road Diaries (received anonymously), Sir Phillip Dilley, Chairman of the Environment Agency and Councillor Andy Cooper Chairman of Arun District Council were due to preside at a completion ceremony in Arun District Council’s Civic Centre on Monday, 28th September 2015.

Invited guests were promised a presentation on Littlehampton’s Flood Defence scheme by James A Humphrys, Area Manager for Environment Agency, South Downs and Solent and his colleagues from the Environment Agency on the scheme followed by a buffet lunch ending off the day with a tour of Littlehampton’s Flood Defence scheme.

In what can only be described as an embarrassing cock-up  for both the Environment Agency and their partners at Arun District Council, both parties have now cancelled the celebratory event owing to fears that Littlehampton’s River Road may flood. And River Road is acutely at risk during the period the period 29th – 30th September 2015 when exceptionally high tides are predicted.

This would be the day after the big wigs and their invited guests had munched their way through a finger buffet provided at the expense of the tax payer while listening to self-congratulatory speeches on how marvelously they’ve all performed.

In his cancellation letter to his invited guests, James A Humphrys explains that the Environment Agency are predicting exceptionally high tides (as part of a 17 year cycle) during the period – 29th to 30th September. These high tides are caused by atmospheric low pressure and could, Mr Humphrey’s warns that owing to a gap in their flood defences, there may be localised flooding in River Road.

He offers reassurance in his letter advising that contingency plans are now in place, which may include the closing of part of Littlehampton’s River Road and the erection of temporary flood defences.

Regrettably, under such circumstances, Mr Humphrys advises that they’ve had no alternative but to cancel their celebrations.

So while the big-wigs lament the loss of another tax-payer funded free round of sarnies and vol-au-vonts, the bigger question remains is how has the Environment Agency spent £22.5m on building flood defences that now clearly are unfit-for-purpose?

Littlehampton Flood Defence SchemeAbove: The gap in the flood defences left during the building and completion of Littlehampton’s new Flood Defence Scheme. Hard to believe the Environment Agency could have left without addressing this gaping gap.

Littlehampton Flood Defence SchemeThe gap can be seen in the above picture nestled between two residential developments.

To the right of the gap you can see the original flood defences being rebuilt by the Environment Agency’s contractors. While the new buildings on the left have had their own flood defences built and strengthened by the property developer.

Littlehampton Flood DefencesAbove: Environment Agency contractors working on rebuilding the flood defences in this area, but specifically left a gap in the new flood defence wall.

Littlehampton Flood Defence SchemeHard to imagine how a decision was arrived by the Environment Agency to leave this exposed section unaddressed. It is this gap, which has led to their celebrations having to be cancelled.

Littlehampton Flood defencesA terrific new stretch of flood defence was completed by the Environment Agency to the right next to the gap.

The Environment Agency have previously been criticised for leaving this area so vulnerable and exposed. The Littlehampton Gazette covered local business owner and resident Mr Boyce’s concerns in a feature published on 23rd February 2015 entitled:  “Littlehampton Flood Defences has a gaping hole in it”.

Mr Humphrys concludes  his letter by saying it would be ‘inappropriate in a celebration event in Littlehampton in these circumstances.’ But he does say they’re proud of their achievements and they’re working towards a long term solution for River road.

Little comfort for Littlehampton’s River Road residents who now face potential road closures and are at risk of flooding, ironically as a result of lack of flood protection, despite the EA spending over £22.5m on building state-of-the-art flood defences.

In my view, it’s entirely unacceptable that given that the Environment Agency and their partners, Arun District Council have jointly spent in excess of £22.5m (original budget set at £14.5m) they have failed in their primary objective to prevent flooding in Littlehampton and we now must resort to relying on emergency temporary flood prevention measures (aka sand bags) and road closures. Were the Environment Agency and Arun District Council subject to the same intense scrutiny such as education and health establishments are, both organisations would be deemed unfit for purpose and placed in special measures.

I wonder when the Environment Agency and Arun District Council will get around to forewarning the residents and business owners of Littlehampton’s River Road and West Beach residents at Ropewalk?

The predicted exceptionally high tides, which are posing this flood risk are due to take place on 29th – 30th September 2015.

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As always, your comments are welcome which you can add below.