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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does this look like it’s suitable for disabled access?

With over £14.5 million pounds of your hard earned money being spent ‘regenerating’ Littlehampton’s Pier Road (and surrounding environs) you’d imagine that the least the Project Manager, Peter Borseberry could achieve would be a suitable ramp allowing disabled people enjoy a boat trip in our lovely harbour?

(remember to click on the pictures to blow them up for a closer look)

Disabled Access

Regrettably not. Take a look at the new ‘disabled compliant’ ramp that leads to the pontoons where you can take a charter boat, fishing trip, ferry trip or a scenic tour.

By any stretch of the imagination, I think it would be hard to imagine pushing your loved one up or down this monstrosity let alone doing it on your own.

The Environment Agency dispute this.David Robinson, Operations Manager for The Environment Agency in the South East assured me when we met earlier this week that the above steps are fully compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act.

Disabled access

Here’s the steps from a different angle. These photographs were taken close to ‘low tide’ but the tides at the time of the photographs are on what’s known as ‘neaps’. On Spring tides, the angle will be substantially more acute making the ramp even steeper. Make sure you strap your loved ones in their chairs, say your goodbyes and hope that Mr Robinson and Mr Borseberry have got it right.

Disabled access

This new ramp, which we’ve been assured is fully compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act 1995  is due to open in January 2015.

Disabled access

A long way up even for the fittest amongst us. Remember this ramp will be used by divers and fishermen carrying diving equipment or pushing it in trailers.

Personally, I don’t believe this ramp complies with the requirements or even the Disability Discrimination Act and if does, then the Act needs to be amended.

Apologies, the add comments field is still problematic. Please email your comments or thoughts to pierroad@live.com

Thanks for reading.

Paul

 

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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