Littlehampton Sea Defences

After  months of nothing…..

Shortly after my last posting in January, the Environment Agency appears to have woken up from it’s winter slumbers.

First, a telephone call from Peter, the Project Manager to one of Pier Road traders assuring us that the proposed sea defences plans are still most certainly on.

Then, a nice Press Release to the local media outlets announcing the government’s commitment to the building the sea defences. Here’s the Littlehampton Gazette’s report on the story:

“Andrew Gilham, Sussex flood and coastal risk manager at the EA, expected it would take around a year to complete all the defences.

He added the construction work had been planned in conjunction with traders in Pier Road, and wouldn’t have an impact on the busy summer season, which many businesses relied heavily upon.”

Gosh, Andrew, my memories of our initial dealings with the Environment Agency were that your Agency were about to ride rough-shod over the interests of Pier Road Traders last year when you took it upon yourselves to decide to close Pier Road without any consultation with Pier Road Traders. This during our the busiest half-term holiday of the year.

I recall that the Environment Agency only postponed their plans to work in Pier Road as you hadn’t got the necessary legal consents in place from the Highways Agency….I recall the ongoing battles with the Project Team who were initially adamant they were going ahead, despite our objections.

Anyway, back to the present – Shortly after Andrew’s Press Release we all received an email from the Project Team notifying of us of an urgent meeting to attend a Consultation Meeting to view the ‘draft plans’ for what is now proposed in Pier Road.

Owing to the short notice time of only four days, I had to rearrange plans so I could make the meeting, only to receive another email informing us as that so few could attend, the meeting had been postponed to the following week.

Which begs the question does anyone in the Environment Agency have any idea how to schedule a meeting?

Then, even more correspondence followed, when we were all forwarded the draft plans for what is now being proposed.

By my calculation, this will be the eight time I have been invited to review Draft Plans the regeneration of Pier Road.

One thing I was impressed with was that finally we were being given an opportunity to view the plans prior to the Consultation meeting. However, any admiration was sadly short lived as I discovered that the Draft Plans lacked any useful detail in respect of measurements, surface finishing, heights and so on.

So I emailed the project team saying that I was concerned that despite assurances to the contrary, the draft plans include a plan to build out into Pier Road, something which we have been assured wasn’t going to happen.

I asked for the revised measurements of the Pier Road to be provided and got an email reply telling me that they wouldn’t be answering this question until 1st March 2013.

But our Consultation meeting is on Tuesday 26th February?

Seems a bizarre waste of time to invite stakeholders to attend a consultation meeting, when prior to the meeting a question is asked in relation to the measurements, or lack of them, only to be told that they won’t answer this question until the week following the meeting?

I don’t really think the Environment Agency fully understands the concept of meetings, so I’ve invested in the following book, which I’m having sent to the Project Team in an effort to save tax payer’s money.

518LUIKKbML._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU02_

Of concern also is Arun District Council’s Funding Pledge for these Regeneration Plans.

Until now, Arun District Council have been saying they’ve pledged £1m towards the Sea front enhancements:. Here’s a quote from Arun District Council’s own Website:

Councillor Roger Elkins, Deputy Leader of Arun District Council says: “In these difficult times, £1 million is a considerable amount of money to pledge. It shows our commitment to the regeneration of Littehampton and realising the visions set out in our waterfront strategy.”

Yet, In this week’s Littlehampton Gazette, as part of the feature covering the proposed Sea Defences:

“Arun District Council has also given £500,000 to be used for a project to enhance the pedestrian section of Pier Road.”

I’m confused here, as I thought Councillor Elkins Deputy Leader of the District Council said it was £1million.

So what is it?

£1 million or £500,000?

Then the Environment Agency are quoting a different figure altogether, with £1.3 Million. Information published on their website, 14th August 2012 states:

“The project will also regenerate the area around Pier Road and Arun Parade in the town as a result of the additional £1.3 Million being provided by Arun District Council to introduce significant enhancements to the Scheme..”

I’ve asked Project Team to explain why the different figures and have had no reply.

A further concern of mine is just how long these proposed works are likely to take.

On THE 29TH November 2011, Arun District Council published a PR Release regarding the Proposed Sea Defences stating:

“the flood defences work is anticipated to start around Autumn 2012 and will take approximately 12 months to complete.”

However, the Project Manager told me during our last telephone conversation that he sees it being completed within 3 months.

So how long is it going to take?

While I’m not an engineer,  I cannot see how any civil engineering contractor could complete what is being proposed for Pier Road in 3 months, let alone 12 months, bearing in mind that this project began in 2010 and we still haven’t seen a final plan?

Pier Road will Close advice from the Environment Agency

“Shut your business and take a holiday…..”

Was the shocking advice from Peter Borseberry, Project Manager for the proposed Flood Defences for Pier Road’s Littlehampton.

I sat there shocked as he gave his update for the proposed Sea Defences for Littlehampton during last week’s meeting at Arun District Council.

During this meeting, Pier Road Traders were told:

  1. Pier Road, Littlehampton will be closed for the duration of the works to build the new sea defences.
  2. There may, where possible be a provision to include a pavement for pedestrians, but this cannot be guaranteed, rendering Pier Road closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
  3. There is no timescale for the proposed works, but the Environment Agency hope it to be completed within  6 months.
  4. The important thing is that Fish movements in the River Arun are monitored to ensure that there is as little impact on their habitat and movements as possible.
  5. Properties in Pier Road could be potentially damaged by the works. Thus far, the EA seem to have overlooked the fact that so many of Pier Road’s properties have basements.
  6. Viewing Platforms to be erected for the public who can marvel at the works being done.

Then we had a bizarre invitation that it might be ‘best  to consider closing your business and taking a holiday…”

I got the impression that the welfare of the fish was being put before those of the tax-paying public and business rate payers.

For example, Peter explained that it was an important task of the Environment Agency to accommodate the fishes needs in the River Arun and that their work shouldn’t impact on them.

Compare this to the treatment of those of us who either live or have businesses in Pier Road.

To date, neither the EA or Arun District Council has as much as commissioned something as simple as a traffic survey, residents survey, or local business survey in order to understand Pier Road’s local geography and needs.

Far better to stand watching the fish rather than undertake something that could potentially save businesses from going bankrupt.

But in my experience, Councils don’t do ‘reality’ well. They prefer to see everything through the prisms of a carefully appointed, invariably overpaid ‘consultant’ than confront what’s actually going on outside their own doors.

Important tools such as a well-thought out Traffic Management Plan, get overlooked in the rush to adhere to form-filling duties as opposed to actually creating a safe and sensible management of road closures.

In my view, the impact on closing Pier Road for such a prolonged period will have a devastating impact on businesses not just in Pier Road, but also Littlehampton Town Centre as traffic chaos and gridlock will result in less visitors coming to either area and shopping and visiting elsewhere.

The potential disastrous impact of this development could be greatly reduced if the work was carried out, riverside, than roadside. That way Pier Road and Arun Parade would remain in some way open to traffic.

I must say I was grateful for the support of Councillor Paul Bicknell who made a point of insisting that the EA build into the Contract of Works a Clause stating that a footpath be maintained open in Pier Road throughout the proposed period of Works and Councillor Dingemans’s suggestion to offer free parking nearby in the Pay and Display Car park.