Partial Victory Over Old Town Sea Wall

Residents who campaigned for the removal of wooden sleepers on the Old Town sea wall have won a partial-victory.

In the same week that a petition was launched to get the alterations reversed, the Council has agreed to remove the oak blocks, but only from one end.

They’ll come off the Duchy, granite wall at the slipway side of the bay near to ‘Dolphins’.

On the adjacent stretch of wall, the 2 layered blocks will be reduced to 1 sleeper in height.

The Planning Committee Chair, Amanda Martin and Vice-Chair, Gaz O’Neil, have been given delegated powers to decide what is acceptable in terms of finished appearance, although Planning Officer, Craig Dryden said there had been no discussions on how the finished work should look.

The Councillors’ challenge will be in finding a visibly pleasing way to deal with the transition between the area of wall that will retain the wood and the area where it will be removed.

There was a well-attended site visit arranged to let Councillors view the wall.

Brian Lowen felt the wooden sleepers on the concrete wall had blended in with weathering but Amanda warned that not everyone shared that view.

Members were given a report by consultants Jubb, which answered some of the questions that the community had asked since the work was undertaken.

It stated that the storm drains in the wall need to be there to release water.

It also claimed that concrete couldn’t be used because it would be hard to produce to maritime standards on site and would be costly.

But while the addition of the wood has brought strong criticisms from members, they seem to have overlooked that they voted to approve the sleepers in a planning meeting in July 2011.

Although there was some debate on the plan, it was included as part of a much larger item on the new school plans, which dominated the discussions at the time.

But it’s the quality of work that has been an issue for some Councillors.

Amanda Martin spoke of “some would say substandard” workmanship with a “poor” build quality and she wanted that view conveyed to the contractor.

And whoever takes over now is likely to have their work heavily scrutinized, although there’s uncertainty over who will do the job and where the cash will come from.

The sleepers were added because a Flood Risk Assessment required 5 metres of wall to protect the new school in storm conditions.

Part of the wall, as it was before the additions, stood at 4.997 metres above sea level and Brian Lowen told the meeting of his surprise that all of this had happened, “for the sake of 3 millimetres” and that begs the question, “Why on earth did this happen in the first place?”

Members were warned that they could only recommend that the sleepers were taken away and Chris Savill pointed out that the new school project board would have to take matters further.

There’s no clear picture on when the timbers will be removed as no schedule of works had been outlined to Councillors at the meeting.

Richard McCarthy warned the meeting that, “timing was of the essence” and he wanted white line painting and reduction of the buttress at the Nowhere end of the wall dealt with at the same time.

But Craig Dryden pointed out that the project board wouldn’t meet again until February 29th.

It appears nothing can happen until then.

Who pays for the restorative work is also an issue. Brian Lowen told the meeting it wouldn’t be the original contractor, Kier, doing the work necessarily and it would be, “going out to tender now.” And that means there’s no clear timeline

Councillor Lowen suggested the whole incident would look “terrible” to the public.

“Once we have put them there, we’ll take them away again” he said.

For the Councillors and Council officers who didn’t monitor the job effectively and islanders who have complained bitterly about the work, Christine Savill’s view that, ”as soon as this issue dies away, the better” will strike a chord.

When that will be and at what cost is unclear and may suggest that officers have learned little from this public relations disaster.


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