End of the line for Littlehampton miniature railway?

Not good news, I’m afraid.

I understand that the operator of Littlehampton’s Miniature railways has pulled out of Littlehampton, sold his rolling stock and ceased his operation.

The miniature railway which has been a long standing and much loved feature of Littlehampton’s East Beach area, will no doubt be sorely missed. Loved by old and young, alike.

Running from the putting green cafe to Mewsbrook park, the train has been an established feature of Littlehampton life for many years now, albeit having changed ownership over the past few years.

I’m not sure of the reasons why the operated has pulled out, but I have seen correspondence that suggests a breakdown between the concession holder and Arun District Council.

In any event, it very much appears that the operator has now sold his train and rolling stock and that as they say, is the end of that.

October last year a feature appeared in the Littlehampton Gazette where the train operator’s staff were concerned at being made redundant by their employer. However, their employer (the owner of the train and Arun District Council concession holder) made it clear that making the redundant was necessary as they were seasonal employees.

A shame, a real shame.

Meanwhile, Arun District Council are planning to increase Littlehampton’s seafront car parking charges by over 200%.

If the plans go ahead, the current charge (during July and August) will go from £6 for 2 hours plus to a whopping great £10.

And, your tenner will buy you a space as pictured below.

Arun District Counci Car parking

Would you be happy paying £10 to park in the above for £10?

My understanding from reading through Arun District Council’s proposed car parking increases is that the council have no plans to improve the already unacceptable car park conditions in Littlehampton seafront or to upgrade Littlehampton’s seafront toilets.

It’s amazing that given Arun District Council oversaw a £22.5m seafront regeneration scheme, that neither the existing public toilets or the public car park were deemed as being in need of regeneration.

You can see Arun District Council’s proposed car parking charges increase on Arun’s website here.

Tourism is a competitive business and my view is Arun District Council are in danger of pricing us out of the market. We also desperately need for Arun District Council to work at attracting and retaining concession holders and create modern, practical, usable seafront facilities.


As always, thanks for reading, comments welcome.

Be sure to sign up (if you haven’t already)  to Littlehampton Live’s regular newsletter, which you can do here.

Arun District Council get ‘tough’ with Morrissons Supermarket in Wick

The lion that is Arun District Council’s planning department, has roared.

Well actually, growled softly.

Or to be more accurate, waved it’s furry paws at the supermarket giant, Morrissons – for their continued failure to comply with the conditions of their planning consents.

This story dates back to April 2012 when Morrissons applied to Arun District Council to build a new supermarket on what was the old Body Shop’s premises. Arun District Council’ Planning department granted Morrissions permission to build, on the basis that Morrissons would include an ‘Enterprise Hub’ as part of their store.

The Enterprise hub was to provide offices for small businesses to rent for up to 200 employees.

The planning consent stipulated the Enterprise Hub must be completed prior to the store opening.

Unsurprisingly, Morrissons ignored the planning stipulation and opened their new store and failed to provide an Enterprise Hub.

Meanwhile Arun District Council’s Planning department, somewhat surprisingly, let them get away with it.

Until now (some 3 years later) when Mr Karl Roberts, Arun District Council’s Director of Planning and Economic Regeneration, has finally roared into life and written to Morrissons advising them they must comply with the conditions of their planning consents.

Mr Roberts is unapologetic in his harsh approach to Morrissons.

” The council doesn’t take enforcement action lightly but it is important that planning rules and procedure is followed correctly.” he says. ” I hope Morrisons will take swift measures to remedy the situation otherwise the council will need to consider further action.”

Enforcement action, Mr Roberts?

What enforcement action?

You’ve finally got off your backside after 3 long years and done what exactly?

Written a letter.

How about comparing your so called ‘enforcement action’ against Morrissons supermarket, to someone whose parked legally in an Arun District Council car park, paid for parking but returned later than they’ve paid for. Here your council’s enforcement action slaps the ‘offender’ with an instant £70 fine.

Unlike your council’s treatment of Morrissons, there’s no ignoring an overstayer in one of Arun District Council’s car parks. Or of course if you’re unfortunate enough to be late in sending your monthly council tax payment to Arun District Council expect to get a demand from the council that you now pay all your council tax in advance.

Or how about the classic Arun District Council enforcement action, as demonstrated by Nigel Croad, Deputy Chief Executive at an Arun District Council planning meeting in 2013?

This really is a classic. A  meeting of Arun District Council’s planning committee where the public have been invited to attend.

However, as Arun District Council underestimated the level of public interest, they failed to provide enough room for those in attendance and a large section of the public were debarred from taking part.

Mr Croad’s response is to bait the crowd by accusing them of being silly. Of course they were being rather silly, Mr Croad. Foolish in believing that someone as inept as yourself could actually successfully arrange a public meeting, and correctly gauge public interest and provide adequate facilities.

When finally, handling a group of mildly irate residents became all too much for Mr Croad, he called Sussex police.

The Youtube video below by Pete Edgeler captures the atmosphere beautifully. Watch Mr Croad, (the Basil Faulty look-alike appearing at .50 in the video) demonstrate how not to  manage a public meeting.

I very doubt either Mr Croad or his colleague Mr Roberts would dare speak to representatives of Morrissons in the same way as he addressed this group of local residents.

 

 

Or how about Arun District Council’s treatment of Alan, Pier Road’s most eccentric resident? Here Arun District Council’s Planning Department have written to a local resident and amongst other things, demanded to know why he has a toy dog and a mannequin attached to his property. A property, which gives many many visitors and locals some joy and amusement.

Yet when it comes to Morrissons supermarket not complying with the conditions of their planning consents, what do Arun District Council do?

 

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As always, thanks for reading.

Your comments welcome below.

 

 

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 Sea Defences, Update

Over the past week our shop in Pier Road has had a number of visitors telling us that they’ve read that the sea defence works will be finished by the end of May.

Regrettably this isn’t the case. It would appear that this confusion has arisen following an article in the Littlehampton Gazette where it was stated:

“Good weather in spring has allowed work to progress quickly in creating the 450 meter-long tidal river wall.

This phase of the project is now due to be completed in May.”

What’s appears to have led to the confusion is that the above paragraph has given the impression that the works are finished in May. An understandable misunderstanding. However, what has been said is that the first, and probably the most difficult phase of the scheme, the piling works,  will be finished in May.

The contractor advised us yesterday, Monday 11th May, that they’re hoping to be complete of piling works within the next two weeks. There is only now two piling gate lefts in Pier Road, this being in the North end.

Once these are completed, the next phase of the works begins in Pier Road and Arun Parade, which includes creating the concrete caps on top of the piling wall. Although as the picture below shows, work on constructing the concrete cap and wall in Arun Parade has already begun and quite advanced.

Littlehampton Sea Defence Construction 1

Work has begun on the concrete capping at the top end of Arun Parade. The above picture indicates the height of the new sea wall – you can see the original railings in front of it, which gives an indication of high Littlehampton’s new sea wall will be.

Littlehampton Sea Defence construction 2

Construction of Littlehampton’s Flood Defences with the concrete capping now been constructed on top of the piling wall.

Littlehampton Sea Defences 1

As the piling wall is now almost complete in Pier Road, the back filling has begun which takes place prior to the concrete cap being constructed.

Littlehampton Sea Defences 2

The piling is now almost complete along Arun Parade and Pier Road with only two remaining piling gates to be completed to join up with the original East Bank’s riverside development flood defences.

A regular question by visitors to our shop is – Will the Sea Defence wall in Pier Road and Arun Parade  be higher than the existing wall along the East bank riverside walkway?

My understanding (from our consultation meetings) is that when the riverside development was constructed they worked to a then ’30-year standard’, which was applicable at that time. Since then the standards for sea defence construction has changed and the Environment Agency are building to deliver a ‘100 year standard’. Thus explaining the difference in heights.

It’s difficult say just how high the new wall will be, but going on what we can now see at Arun Parade, the wall will be very high. Which is why Arun District Council have to go get the public realm design right.

So no more piling?

Yes for Pier Road and Arun Parade, but once the piling works have been completed with us in Pier Road, the piling crews move onto the next reach, which is in the River Road area.

VolkerStevin have erected notices there advising that River Road will be closed from 27th May 2014 until October 2014 to allow for this second phase of construction. The actual closure will be between the Red Footbridge (which won’t be closed) and numbers 1-5 Riverside Walk.

Where can I get more information?

If you have any concerns regarding the forthcoming closure of River Road or any questions regarding the project – do pop into see Eric Smethurst who is scheme’s Public Liaison Manager. Eric’s Visitor Centre is located at the Oyster Pond and is open Wednesday to Sunday.

What about the Free Parking?

Arun District Council are only now allowing the first hour to be free in the West Green Car Park. However, you can now park anywhere in this car park and avail of the first hour free. However, the previous agreement where we were getting free parking for visitors to Pier Road and Harbour Park has now been withdrawn.

Furthermore, be aware that at the North end of Pier Road – this being the Harbour Office/Travis Perkins end – the seasonal yellow lines are back in force. There is limited 1-hr free parking here as there’s always been.

So do please  take care when parking and make sure you read the signs carefully.

Remember to keep up to date with the Pier Road Diaries, just enter your email address in the box on the right hand top (ish) side of this page and you’ll get regular updates.

You can also follow us on twitter @Pier_road

As always, thanks for reading.

Paul

 

 

Littlehampton Flood Defence Scheme asking for a cash bail out from Arun District Council

The Environment Agency’s Team responsible for delivering Littlehampton’s £14.5 million Flood Defence scheme announced on Friday, (11th April 2014) to Pier Road Traders, that Littlehampton’s Sea Defence project is now overspent.

So much so, that they’re now having to cut back on the public realm enhancements (the landscaping of the scheme), and also asking the tax payer for additional funds to complete the project.

The exact figure of the overspend hasn’t been disclosed.

Reasons for the increased expenditure is explained in an email from the Project Team as follows:

“The contractor’s costs for the public realm are higher than initially anticipated due to the increased programme duration and additional information on work specification provided as part of the detailed design process.”

 

The email advises that savings will be achieved by:

” a revised design has been proposed that adjusts this slightly replacing some of the ‘harder’ elements with additional planting.”

Revised designs will include:

  1. Removal of the bottom two planting terraces in lieu of a planted slope with a steel panel visible at the rear of the planted area.
  2. Removal of 3 areas of timber terracing at the southern end of Reach 1 in lieu of planting.
  3. Replacement of southern steps, adjacent to the service access road, with planting and a shorter section of steps.
  4. Replacement of steps near the lighthouse with a low wall, maintaining a short section of pedestrian steps for access.


“The changes achieve some of the necessary savings, however additional funds are required to deliver the scheme. Arun District Council’s Cabinet meeting on Monday 14th April will be asked to consider the recommendation of a supplementary estimate to fully implement the proposed enhancements..”

 

This last line in the above paragraph gives rise to further confusion. Is the additional cash being required to deliver the original scheme as consulted and agreed upon. Or, provide funds to construct the revised downsized enhancements?

Essentially, Littlehampton’s Sea Defence Project promised at a cost of £14.5 million and promised to be delivered and ready by early July 2014 is now not only seriously behind in timescales – we’re looking at end of the year before the works are finished and then Pier Road will require works from West Sussex Highways Department, which will most likely result in Pier Road not being open again until early 2015 – but now the local taxpayer will be paying for what could only be described as gross incompetence.

What’s really annoying is just how many hours of our time in Pier Road was spent agreeing on a design for the public realm enhancements – this included quite literally days of our time – including attending workshops, consultation meetings, reviewing draft designs only not to see what we finally agreed on being quite literally altered and reduced in one simple email.

Why did we bother wasting our time?

Why were we so gullible as to believe that this shower of incompetents were remotely interested in how the final Littlehampton’s Seafront would look when in reality anything that was agreed could be instantly altered without any further consultation?

Here’s a brief overview of why this Project is both over-time and over-spent.

1. Engineering/survey flaws.

Despite being repeatedly told by traders in Pier Road many of whom have lived here for over 50 years that Pier Road was unsuitable and incapable of taking the weight of the large machinery needed to undertake the piling works, the Environment Agency’s Project Manager, Peter Borsberry ignored this advice relying instead on surveys by his appointed engineers.

These surveys proved flawed and it was only after a period of 4 month’s inactivity in Pier Road, the Environment Agency’s finally admitted during one of our meetings that a specially adapted crane bridge would have to be constructed incurring an additional £400,000 costs to the project budget.

My view is that the engineering firm  who provided the original flawed survey should be responsible for the costs that resulted in their flawed surveys.

Why should the tax payer have to pay for this gross incompetence?

Let’s not forget that this mistake not only cost a whopping great £400,000 hole in the project budget, but also led to lengthy delays to piling works being undertaken in Pier Road.

2. Timescale Flaws

Again throughout the consultation project, the Environment Agency’s Project team were questioned as to their timescales with traders expressing concern that the project couldn’t be delivered in such a small window.

These concerns were dismissed and the arrogant ‘we’re doing similar schemes all over the country’ became their stock-standard response.

When you look now at the sheer technical problems this project poses, you’d have to be an idiot not to be able to see that the construction of Littlehampton’s Sea Defences could be achieved in as little as six months.

We were told by the then site manager that the piling in Pier Road would take 30 days. This during a consultation meeting. When asked by one of the traders in Pier Road how many piles would be needed to complete Pier Road, this was met with an embarrassing silence.

Who could honestly have any faith in a site manager who tells a group that piling can be completed in 30 days when he hasn’t even worked out how many piles would be needed?

In fact, it took the owner of a fish and shop to tell him how many piles would be needed and dig him out of the embarrassing hole he’d dug himself.

And, the piling in Pier Road is ongoing and has been since January and expected to be completed in May. A total of 5 months.

And we’re expected to pay for this level of competency?

3. Incompetent management

The contract responsible for constructing the scheme’s Site Manager has now been replaced.

I don’t intend to speculate on the reasons why he’s gone, but telling us that he could complete piling in Pier Road in 30 days might give you some idea. In any event, his replacement appears to have achieved more tangible results in the one month or so he’s been here, than what his predecessor didn’t manage to achieve in more than six months.

Why should the tax payer pay for incompetent site management?

4. Grossly underestimating compensation for Traders

Easy to see now why getting a fair deal on compensation was so difficult.

Clearly the Environment Agency hadn’t figured on just how great the impact would be on businesses trading in Pier Road.

Again, these concerns were brought (and continually brought) to the Project Team during the consultation process.

I suggested that the Environment Agency’s Project team undertake a survey of business activity in Pier Road in order to give them a better feel as to just how much their works were likely to cost us in terms of lost business.

These concerns were dismissed and no surveys undertaken – however the Project Team did spend time monitoring the comings and goings of fish in the River Arun and accessing the potential impact that their works might have on sea bass.

As we know now, businesses in Pier Road have been devastated by these works, which are ongoing and these losses are now set to increase seeing as the works will  continue throughout the summer period.

A once vibrant and brilliantly independent business location is now reliant on state-handouts to keep the lights on.

5. Excessive and ever-increasing ‘professional fees’.

What’s become clear with this project is that the Environment Agency is nothing more than a group of walking, talking pen pushers.

Any expertise/professional service  that’s required has to be bought in – and at considerable costs.

Whether it’s to assess trader’s compensation claims, or make a decision as to the type of pile used, the Environment Agency’s Project Team are either unable, unqualified or unwilling to undertake these tasks which then have to be farmed out private practices to provide.

Consequently costs spiral.

Ultimately, we (Pier Road Traders) were led to believe right throughout the lengthy consultation process that the Environment Agency has agreed a fixed cost contract for the works.

It’s unacceptable now that they’ve quite literally cocked up so much that we the local tax payer are not only having to fund their incompetence by way of providing additional monies, but also are seeing what was a somewhat under whelming public realm now being reduced further as they’ve overspent.

I have no doubt that Monday night’s Cabinet Meeting at Arun District Council will approve the additional funding – after all – what choice have they got?

In any event, it’s unacceptable that the public should pay for incompetence.

The Environment Agency will of course blame the weather and any other convenient peg they can hang their problems on. However, what they can’t get away from is that they fact that the fundamental principles behind this project were seriously flawed and data provided by expensive experts has proved detrimental to the costs and duration of this scheme.

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