Fears for sea defence scheme after damage

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Urgent answers have today been demanded over the multi-million pound Sea Defence project – after claims stormy weather has left the scheme damaged and potentially “lethal”.

Blackpool Tory councillors Tony Williams and Paul Galley have already demanded a meeting with project managers Balfour Beatty along with two concerned residents who have taken pictures of apparent damage to part of the £86m scheme in Anchorsholme.

And those living close to the work say they are extremely worried by the damage they have already seen as it could pose a danger to children.

The pictures show there has been erosion to the temporary foundations of the wall following recent poor weather – leading to questions over whether it is safe.

Balfour Beatty has said the damage is to the ‘blinding’ – a non-structural temporary part of the wall which will eventually be removed.

But Coun Williams said: “I was made aware of residents’ concerns regarding cracks and other issues with the new sea wall defence work a couple of weeks ago and both Coun Galley and I had arranged an early January meeting with the project managers to discuss this.

“However the recent damage goes much further than some minor defects and we are both now deeply concerned as to the safety and longevity of the work.

“I have requested an urgent meeting with senior officers and representatives from Balfour Beatty to get to the bottom of the problems and I expect some real answers and immediate action.

“This work is paramount to the future safety of our coastline and the residents of Anchorsholme. Coun Galley and I have worked hard to get this built and we won’t accept anything less than a perfect job.”

Coun Williams said following concerns over the damage, he called out an emergency site manager on Saturday and asked him to try and make the area as safe as possible – and ensure that youngsters cannot reach the damaged area once the tide has receded.

The Anchorsholme Protection Scheme is designed to reconstruct the sea wall and protect local homes from flooding, while improving access to the beach.

The project is part of a coastal protection scheme which will replace 2.9km of sea walls, renew the promenade and preserve the beaches between Rossall in the north and Anchorsholme in the south.

The scheme, being funded by the Environment Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, forms part of the wider Fylde Peninsula Coastal Programme.

The plan is intended to see sheet steel piling erected forming the bottom of the new defences, which will be capped with a concrete beam to provide further defences.

Balfour Beatty spokesman Scott Wilson said: “It’s been brought about by natural weather systems and the aftermath of Hurricane Bertha, for example.

“There have been exceptionally high tides, which meant that some of the stone foundation, which is only a temporary measure, has been washed away.

“This small section will be repaired and then it’s on to the next step.”

Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member for urban regeneration, said: “We’re aware that there was some damage to the sea wall caused by the storms earlier in December.

“The damage was caused to the blinding, a non-structural part of the sea wall, which is used while the construction is in progress.

“Once the construction work is completed, the blinding will be protected by the pre-cast concrete revetment and wave breaker units.

“These units will be able to withstand the force of powerful waves, thereby safeguarding the community.

“We are working with the contractor to ensure that any issues we uncover during the construction process are fixed and we are confident that once the project is completed it will not be a problem.”