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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pier Road finally re-opens after 18months

Closed since 21st October 2013, Pier Road’s new riverside walkway and road finally re-opened today.

I have been following the construction of Littlehampton’s flood defences and have taken in excess of 3,000 photographs of the works at every stage. It’s impossible to put them all together in one post, so here’s some of my favourites, which diary the progress of the works finally arriving at today’s memorable opening.

Starting with a look back at Pier Road in bygone era.

Pier Road Littlehampon 1

Pier Road as it was as a working fishing port. As you can see the buildings were mostly houses, and not commercial. Only later, when sea-side holidays and day-trips became popular, did the road change to meet the changing visitor needs.

Pier Road, Littlehampton

Pier Road, Littlehampton

My favourite vintage pictures of Pier Road (above and below)  taken when it was a working fishing port.

Pier Road Littlehampton

Pier Road 5

Pier Road in its hay day when visitors flocked from all over the South East to visit Littlehampton’s wonderful sandy beaches and enjoy traditional fish and chips.

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Per Road’s original ferry which crossed  the River Arun taking visitors from the East Beach area/Pier Road to the West beach.

In 2010, it was announced that Pier Road and Arun Parade would benefit from a £13.5 million investment in creating flood defences and a new public realm.

Consultations began with residents and visitors and a number of workshops and consultation meetings were held where visuals of the proposed scheme were put on display.

ADC Plan for Pier Road

Above is the visual presented at the public consultations which took place at Arun District Council’s Civic Centre.

Work begins

First mark for the first bore hole, Arun Parade Littlehampton

The above picture is the first mark made prior in the road that was made some time before the main works actually began. The yellow mark marks the point where the drilling rig began boring  for soil samples.

Drilling Pier Road Littlehampton

Drilling Pier Road Littlehampton

Drilling rig operating in Pier Road.

Pier Road closed

On the 21st October 2013 Pier Road was closed to vehicular traffic.

Littlehampton Sea Defence works

Conditions in Pier Road during the works were difficult, to say the least. The narrow, caged walkway had an enormous impact on visitors to the road.

Pier Road works by Environment Agency

Very little room for anyone and especially difficult for those travelling with children in buggies or pushing wheel chairs.

Fish Kiosk moving 7

Pier Road’s Fish Kiosk was removed and re-sited opposite the Nelson hotel where it remains today. It will move back to the riverside site once the works there are completed.

Piling works in Littlehampton 2

Piling works begin.

Littlehampton Flood Defences crane bridge

As Pier Road was deemed to unstable to take the weight of the piling crane, a specially adapted crane bridge was constructed which essentially carried the crane along Pier Road. A time-consuming task, which added to the ongoing construction delays.

Littlehampton Flood Defences 3

Piling crane sits on its bridge, above and below

Littlehampton Sea Defences 1

The size of the crane bridge was enormous, to say the least as can be seen in the close up picture below.

Crane Bridge

With works on such a scale, it’s hard to believe that the Environment Agency could have forecasted this would all be complete in six months.

Littlehampton harbour 2

A view of the crane bridge situated along the river.

Littlehampton Flood Defences 1

Equipment had to be craned onto the new platform and flying machinery became a common and interesting sight as the work progressed.

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An aerial view of Pier Road as the piling bridge and crane makes it way along Pier Road. Picture courtesy of VolkerStevin and the Environment Agency.

VolkerStevin 3

With the piling complete in Pier Road, work began on completing the flood defence wall and capping off the exposed piles.

Littlehampton Sea Defence Construction 1

As the height of the wall became apparent, many became annoyed as this height wasn’t clearly depicted in the visuals shown at the public consultations.

ADC Plan for Pier Road

The visuals don’t really show the actual scale of the height of the wall from road or lower pavement level.

Littlehampton Flood Defence works

With the piling completed, concrete walkway complete, work began on finishing the landscaping, street furniture and taking up the old Pier Road.

Littlehampton Flood Defence Works 5

Evidence of Pier Road’s old cobbled surface was uncovered during these works.

Littlehampton Flood Defence works 3

Work continued on preparing and laying the new Pier Road

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Pier Road’s new surface is laid.

Finally, it’s all finished and ready for today’s opening.

Pier Road 8

Pier Road’s new riverside walkway with an excellent disabled ramp to allow easy access for visitors.

Pier Road 4

Arun District Council’s new signs form part of the public realm.

Pier Road 6

A view of the ramp leading up to the new walkway. The walkway itself offers amazing views, which some great places to sit and relax.

Pier Road

One of the seats, which are lovely and comfortable and beautifully finished. In my view, the woodwork in the public realm really is amazing and the company who built these features should be very proud of their achievements.

Pier Road 3

It’s an impressive, bright and airy pubic realm space, which when fully opened will link Littlehampton town centre to the seafront promenade.

Pier Road

The colours of the road blend with the new realm. I wasn’t gone on this in the design, but I think it really does work well. The railings are superb, easy to handle and grip and blend in well with the design.

In addition to the river-facing seating, there are lots of wooden seating areas which face the restaurants, out of sight of the pictures.

Pier Road 1

Given time the sparse planting will grow and mature, but it’s a shame that more mature, dramatic specimens couldn’t have been included in what is a £22m build.

Pier Road 2

Members of the press and local business community gather for the official photographs.

Pier Road 5

The public mood today in Pier Road was one of genuine admiration and awe. I think the contractors and those involved with the project should be very proud of what they’ve created in Pier Road. It’s an impressive and wonderful new space, which undoubtedly will be enjoyed by many generations to come.

The official opening for the entire scheme isn’t scheduled until June 2015.

Arun Parade is due to be open in time for Easter.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read.

 

Paul

 

 

 

Works reveal old road surface

As West Sussex County Council’s Highway’s Contractors began work on scraping off the old Pier Road surface to make ready for the new, they revealed a rare glimpse into Pier Road’s cobbled past.

Littlehampton Flood Defence works 2

Contractors machinery running along Pier Road and scraping off the original road surfacing. Owing to the poor sub-structure in Pier Road, it’s been decided to skim off only the bare necessity.

Littlehampton Flood Defence works

In the above picture, you can see the difference in levels. The old Pier Road surface to the right and the freshly scraped off surface to the left.

Littlehampton Flood Defence works 3

The machinery used for the works were impressive.  The above machine simply ran along the road ‘scraping’ off the old surface to a preset depth. The top layer is then spewed out into an accompanying lorry ready to be taken off site and disposed of.

Littlehampton Flood Defence works 4

During this scraping off process, the machinery went deeper in one stretch as this had been identified by engineers as needing an additional depth. It was here the old cobbled section of Pier Road was revealed. You can just see the little patchwork in the above picture.

Littlehampton Flood Defence Works 5

A closer view of the old cobbles shows how well-preserved they are despite years (no one knows how many, maybe you do?) of having the newer road surface laying on top.

Pier Road, Littlehampton.2

Above, one of the earliest pictures of Pier Road available.

My thanks to Tom Collins, Senior Highway’s Engineer at West Sussex County Council’s Highways Department for taking the time to show us this rare gem before it gets filled over next week when the new road surface will be laid.

Latest Update from the Littlehampton’s Flood Defence Works:

(Information provided by Arun District Council and The Environment Agency)

Weather permitting, Pier Road should be opened either by the end of February 2015, or in the event of adverse weather, early March. The public realm walkway in Pier Road is due to open by the end of week commencing, 2nd March. However, the full landscaping is not expected to be finished until Easter when Arun Parade is also due to be finished.