3 April 2010

No satisfaction yet on wall safety and flooding hazard

On 8th March (see below) we flagged up a new flood hazard presented by the Tesco scheme, and wrote to the Environment Agency on 9th March for their reaction.  In addition, we asked about the safety of the high temporary walls to be built around the site.  For several weeks there was silence - presumably while the EA consulted the Tesco consultants.  Then, on 25th March, we received their reply.

On the issue of the wall safety they say . . . "The use of hydraulic fill is a well established civil engineering technique and has been used to fill dams and move aggregates and minerals for many years. We are currently unaware of any examples where this technique has been used to fill prospective development sites in the manner being suggested in Seaton.  You may wish to search the internet for examples as they may exist.  However, we cannot rule this technique out as a possible solution to the raising the site in an efficient and timely manner.   Civil liability would rest firmly with the consultants/contractors in the event of any problems occurring.

The integrity of any temporary impounding banks is largely a matter for the consulting engineers, to satisfy themselves upon as part of any overall scheme design.  We must wait to consider any proposal that Jubbs wish to promote but shall at all times seek to protect the local environment and ensure as far as we are able that any proposal is safe.  "

To summarise the reply on wall safety. . .
  1. This site infill method is unknown to them
  2. If anything goes wrong, sue Tesco
  3. It is up to the consultants (Jubbs) to decide on the quality of their own work
  4. The EA will ensure safety as far as they are able, but no further.
Now, Jubbs are a well-known firm of engineering consultants who advised Liatris, the previous potential developers of this site.  However, anyone can make a mistake, and we were able to find a serious flaw in their flood risk analysis for Liatris.  By using an outdated version of our old friend PPS25, they proposed a much smaller (hence cheaper) infill volume than was actually required by law.  This was not noticed by the EA, nor by EDDC . . . it was left to our small team of amateurs to detect and correct it.  Our correction was then enforced without explanation or apology.

Now we are looking at a much more ambitious procedure - totally new and untried on this kind of site (says the EA). Who is to say that Jubb may not make another mistake - as they did before?  Who is going to be checking their work ?  Only the EA, as far as they are able; and how far is that ?  Judging from past performance, and the letter above - not very far at all.

Tescowatch will do it's best; but without access to the site or professional advice we may miss something.  It would be far better for the regulating authority (EA) to take on this role with committment and enthusiasm on behalf of us all - as is their function.

As far as flood protection during construction is concerned, the EA reply says . . . " Separate drainage proposals would need to be agreed prior to the main body of work proceeding. Consideration would have to be given to adverse weather, impact on watercourses and potential impact on groundwater.  We understand Jubbs have been considering a number of options to fill the site so we do not wish to speculate upon which, if any, might meet with our approval. "

This sounds reasonable enough (if rather vague), except for the fact that several site plans have already been tabled by Tesco - and approved by the EA - which show no flood protection at all during the infill phase.  Why was this problem not raised by the EA at that stage ?  Why did it have to wait for us amateurs to query it ?

No-one doubts the expertise available to the EA. Why won't they use it ?

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