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 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.

Latest Update from the Flood Defence Scheme.

A deafening silence…

Sorry, there’s been no updates on the blog (for a while now)  regarding the Environment Agency and Arun District Council’s joint £15million sea defence and public realm enhancements for Littlehampton.

I’m afraid, despite my repeated requests to the Environment Agency (since prior to Christmas) for updates, so far there has been no official response.

However, Arun District Council’s Councillor’s Paul Dendle, whose Cabinet Member Portfoli includes Engineering – Flood Defences – released this brief and somewhat bizarre statement via Twitter on 20th January 2014.

“unaware of any material delays 2 flood protection works,it was programmed 2 finish before school hols in Jul 14”

Surprising statement given the Environment Agencies previous updates regarding delays.

Furthermore, the Environment Agency’s Project Team last update reported they were now 4 weeks behind with the Pilling Schedule – this was back early December.

I fail to understand how Councillor Dendle can say that there are no material delays. However, in the absence of any other  official statement contradicting his statement, we can only conclude that officially at least, there are now no delays and all is on target to complete in July.

I did ask the Environment Agency to comment on Councillor Dendle’s announcement, but so far there’s been no response.

Previously they did provide a useful Outline of Programme of Works Document, which you can download here Outline draft programme R1_R2.

It provides a useful guide to the works taking place. And as you’d expect, states at the bottom that ‘this project is draft and is subject to change.’

Given the appalling weather, machinery problems, pilling problems, who wouldn’t be surprised that a major project like this one has slipped behind?

I certainly wouldn’t be. I’ve always said at our consultation meetings that the timescales presented were far too ambitious and unachievable for a scheme of this magnitude. More especially when those of us who live and work here understand the horrific weather we regularly have to put up with  in Pier Road.

So why no official update on the scheme’s progress?

Answering questions with deafening silence, is akin to gagging.

DSCF3157Here we are now, pictured above
Pier Road closedHere we were when then back in October 2013 when the road was closed over 3 months ago.

A dangerous Car Park and a Twitter Spat with Councillor Paul Dendle, Arun District Council

Arun District Council Car ParksThis is the muddy mess of a car park that Arun District Council have provided for visitors to Pier Road and Harbour Park.

Arun District Council Car ParkHow Arun could expect the elderly and disabled to essentially scramble through this mess is beyond me.

Arun District Council Car ParkDespite Arun District Council’s CEOs (aka traffic wardens) patrolling the South Terrace area just by Pier Road on a regular basis to whop a ticket on anyone who dares to park in the now empty and deserted South Terrace area – they made no report of how dangerous this car park was.

So is it any wonder so many weren’t using it?

Anyway, after a complaint by myself to Arun’s Chief Executive about the dangerous state of this car park, Mr Lynn’s office informs me that this Car Park has now been closed and that visitors to Pier Road can park free in the main Western Green Car Park.

How they intend to police this is anyone’s guess, but meanwhile the aggressive and over-bearing actions of their Traffic Wardens continue.

Arun District CouncilMy last post where I thought that common sense would actually prevail regarding over-attentive Traffic Wardens, was sadly misplaced. Their actions continue. Here they are providing a high visible deterrent for anyone thinking of visiting and supporting our businesses.

You could now play a game of football in the Western end of South Terrace, it’s so quiet. Yet, Arun District Council’s Traffic Wardens continue to patrol this area as if it were some dangerous hot spot.

So, if you’re visiting Pier Road, please use the free car parking area in front of the Windmill Public House.

I have asked Mr Nigel Lynn CEO of Arun for an explanation as to why given the incessant visits and patrols by his parking officers they never highlighted the very obvious and very real dangers of this car park.

I will publish his reply in a future post when available.

Meanwhile, thank you to all of you who continue to support our businesses in Pier Road. We all do appreciate your custom and I can’t say how important it is for us to get your support.

As regular customers know, we have all suffered a loss in trade, in some cases (including our own) this loss has been dramatic and substantial.

And now, to that Twitter Spat with Councillor Paul Dendle..

(you can read it on our twitter feed @pier_road)

Contrary to what Councillor Paul Dendle stated in my twitter exchange earlier, Compensation Packages have not been agreed with Pier Road Traders and these negotiations continue under what are proving to be difficult circumstances for us all.

It’s about time once and for all that the ‘compensation myth’ perpetuated by Candy Flow Towers (AKA Arun District Council) was once and for all put to death. We’re not all sitting here comfortably earning a fat compensation payment while the works continue outside our doors.

Many of us are enduring sleepless nights, worrying as to how we’ll pay our bills and, there has been Job losses.

Councillor Dendle would do well to know that prior to shooting off on Twitter with his insensitive, untrue and highly inflammatory comments.

Incidentally, I discovered that Councillor Paul Dendle is the Arun District Council Cabinet Member responsible for Flood Defences in the Arun District having heard him on the local radio. He was being interviewed by Neil Pringle from BBC Southern Counties in relation to the anger of residents in Pagham who say that their flood defences provided by Arun District Council have failed.

Given that we in Pier Road have been in consultation with Arun District Council and the Environment Agency since 2010 regarding the construction of the Sea Defences in Pier Road, I expressed my surprise that we haven’t seen Councillor Dendle at any of the Stakeholder Consultation Meetings.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable of myself to ask why the Cabinet Member for Flood Defences hasn’t attended any of the Stakeholder Consultation meetings in relation to Arun’s biggest flood defence scheme costing £15million.

Councillor Dendle’s confusing reply was to say he wasn’t invited and then blame me for not inviting him to the meetings.

Given that his council arrange and facilitate these meetings and invite us, I’m understandably confused as to why Councillor Dendle would be believe it’s my responsibility to invite him to his own council’s meeting?

I also don’t think it’s unreasonable that given the dangerous and appalling state of the above car park and the fact that he is the Cabinet Member for Car Parks that I asked him for his opinion on the state of the above Car Park.

Councillor Dendle is an elected representative and I’m astonished that he knows so little about what’s going on in relation to matters in his own Cabinet Portfolio.

I’m even more astonished that he’d take to Twitter to demonstrate this.

A bizarre exchange with Councillor Dendle followed, which you can follow on the Pier Road Twitter Feed @Pier_road.

In any event I will ensure that Councillor Dendle is invited to our next Stakeholder Consultation meeting where some of us, at least are really looking forward to meeting him.

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Stand up Comedians and Arun District Council’s Mrs Brown’s Boys.

The Pier Road Diaries have been trawling through some of Arun District Council’s Credit Card purchases, which includes this gem, purchased on the 8th March 2009 courtesy of the local tax payer-

Arun District Council public spendingTotal cost £9.24.

Acquired during the twilight years of Arun District Council’s Chief Executive’s Ian Sumnall whose tenure was certainly nothing to laugh about.

Mr Sumnal arrived at Arun District Council circa the 1970s where he remained there until reaching retirement in 2011 and has the dubious honor of leaving Arun exactly as it was when he first arrived in 1970.

I wonder if Mr Sumnall qualifies for some sort of Heritage Preservation award?

Salary for Mr Summall Chief Executive Arun District Council – £115,000 per year.

Off now enjoying retirement with a final salary pension.

Certainly there’s no need for history lessons for the local school children. In Arun,  we’re still living in a replica of 1970s Britain complete with overhead telephone lines, electric cables, grass car parks and no complicated bus timetables, as there’s only two services a day.

The only real progress the area has seen has been for the Council to declare some years ago that Littlehampton’s motto was to be ‘Progress’ – and erect a small sign to this effect on Littlehampton’s seafront.

No wonder comedy writer and actor Ronnie Barker choose Littlehampton to holiday in. The area is alive with material for stand up comedians.

On a more serious note, the fact that Arun now requires so much regeneration speaks volumes about what didn’t go on here for the past 30 years or so where a self-serving council of mad swivel eyed loons have ensured that underground telephone lines and electric cables are still a forthcoming election promise.

Forget potholes, finished roads would be a novelty.

Personally, I’d have booted Mr Sumnall and his coherts out circa 1980s with the introduction of the package holiday and the electronic calculator.

It was at this time when faced with substantial falling visitor numbers that Arun should have realized that the traditional visitor that Arun had so heavily relied upon, were no longer going to visit in sufficient numbers to sustain our candy-floss economy.

Any responsible, forwarding thinking council would at this point have realised that the days of hanging out a plastic Mr Whippy Cone between the months of April and September wasn’t enough to compete with the cheaper and much more enjoyable alternative of a an all-in package holiday in the Costa Del Sol.

Visitor numbers fell in their thousands.

But Arun District Council failed to do anything at this time to attract alternative visitors to our beautiful area.

It was an opportunity missed and one that had lead to fatal consequences for Arun keeping up with other neighbouring tourist destinations.

It’s a competitive market and while other Local Authorities were busy working on plans to attract all-year-round outdoorsy types, Arun was doing all it could to deter them.

No council resources were spared as Arun erected as many “NO” signs as it possibly could pandering to the ‘swivel eyed loons with their over-developed sense of entitlement who continually objected to opening up the area to outdoor activities.

I kid you not, when I say that the mere sight of teenagers flying a kite on the seafront public greensward is enough to send some of Arun’s elderly retired affluent residents into a frenzy of letter writing in the local papers.

When Arun announced it’s intention to allow cycling on Littlehampton’s seafront promenade it drew record numbers of letters of complaint from local residents. One correspondent warning that Littehampton’s Seafront Promenade would become awash with ‘cycling tourists’…

Perish the thought. Middle aged affluent cyclists spending their money in our B&Bs, campsites and restaurants.

Consequently, draconian bye-laws that would make even Robert Mugabe envious were dreamed up by unimaginative Councillors and enforced by seasonally appointed Sea front police officers who set about the task of ensuing any healthy aspirations were quickly and painfully stamped out.

Arun’s message was clear.

No Cycling – No Rollerblading – No Kiteboarding – No Windsurfing – No dingy Sailing – No Walking on the sand dunes – No, No, No.

Then Mr Sumnall retired.

A new Chief Executive has been appointed – Nigel Lynn.

I’ve met Nigel and have been impressed by his visions for a brighter more outdoor orientated Arun District. He’s also a man clearly uncomfortable with the notion that a CEO’s job is  for life and he’s here to do a job, as opposed to his predecessor who simply grew old behind a desk.

In my view, he’s just what Arun needs.

Cycling is now allowed on Littlehampton’s Seafront promenade, Bognor Regis and there are some very exciting plans being muted about for the Littlehampton’s West Bank  area.

But then along came the thorny  problem of  The Windmill Cinema.

Nigel Lynn, Arun’s Chief Executive stands accused by many residents and councillors (those of the mad swivel eyed loon variety) that Mr Lynn, together with Councillor Dendle and the CEO of Inspire Leisure under the directions of Arun’s Council Leader, Mrs Brown – conspired to ensure that the decision to close the Windmill’s cinema went through without any of that tiresome public consultation that the Public Sector detests so much.

Just as I was hopeful that we’d got rid of the stand up comedian, it now looks like we’ve got our very own version of Mrs Brown’s boys.