The basement of South Parade Pier is continuing to flood, and water from it is still leaking out into the beach. The would-be new owners and the still-hanging-on ones seem unable to get to grips with the situation.
In the parallel universe that is Portsmouth City Council, they are still planning the “Great Wall of Southsea” to enclose the collapsing structure so that nobody is killed if it falls into the sea because of more severe storms. I made some enquiries with a marine engineer a while ago (see the post linked above) as to the cost of some of the alternatives for the Great Wall, and the “ballpark figure” was around £300k for a structure built in marine-grade hardwood. This made my hair stand on end, so I put an FoI request in to the City Council to see what estimates they have obtained. I asked four questions, and they are set out here with the response from PCC below:
What is the expected cost (inc. VAT) of erecting the permanent fencing to be put up on Southsea beach to prevent access to South Parade Pier?
Answer: The preferred contractor for the works has not been appointed at present (although prices have been returned). We estimate the works to be circa £99,000 ex VAT (£118,000 inc. VAT).
What is the expected cost (inc. VAT) of removing the fencing when the need for it has passed?
We do not currently have that information
What is the ‘design life’ of the project?
The design life for the timber structure is 20 years based on experience from the groyne structures at Hayling Island, which this design is based upon. The mesh fencing will be inspected and maintained as required. A gap between the beach level and base of the mesh will be maintained to prevent build-up of beach material.
Have any public consultations on the design and impact of the structure been carried out?
I’m not going to quibble over the difference between the opinion I got from someone who hadn’t seen the site themselves and PCC’s quote, which is presumably based on proper surveying and on-the-spot expertise. However, it will be interesting to see what the eventual spend is. Let’s hope the fence isn’t in fact required to survive for 20 years, indeed let’s hope it isn’t needed at all, and that someone gets on with repairing the damage and restoring the Pier.
But against that optimistic hope, we have to be realistic. Considering that PCC have been terrified all this time of pursuing a Building Act order on the grounds that it might cost money to get one and enforce it, it seems we have ended up in a situation where it is costing us even more money through 3 years of inaction and then sudden panic just before collapse becomes a real possibility.
So now we face a bill for £118k for a fence we shouldn’t need, another unknown eventual bill to get it removed, and potentially £100k of subsidy to owners who have so far shown they can’t even get a water leak sorted out (and who had to bash a fire alarm to bits to get it to stop ringing). Great work all round, PCC. I just hope given GVJ’s recent pronouncements on pollution that it’s only mains water that’s seeping out into the sea from under the Pier. This mess is already expensive enough, set against a background of crazy Lib Dem spending priorities and the savage cuts to vital services they entail.