Hartlepool Borough Council engineer defends Headland Sea Defence work

Work to improve the sea wall off Marine Drive on the Headland.
Work to improve the sea wall off Marine Drive on the Headland.

Engineers at the council have defended work done as part of the Headland Sea Defences scheme.

Work on the £9.5million scheme, which aims to strengthen Headland sea defences against erosion, has faced criticism from residents despite it recently being nominated for an engineering award.

Missing blocks from the north end of the Headland Promenade.

Missing blocks from the north end of the Headland Promenade.

Coping stones on a new ramp fell out in December sparking an investigation by Hartlepool Borough Council, while in January two more large stones at the top of the sea wall near Sea View Terrace had moved out of position.

Experts at the council say they are looking into concerns of an increased noise and vibration from the scheme.

Council senior engineer Kieran Bostock, speaking at a council community forum, said work on the scheme is not yet complete but they decided to open the area over the winter due to public demand.

He added the work was safe and stable and prompt action was taken to the reported faults.

He said: “The bulk of the main work was completed last October so we took the decision to remove the fencing and open the promenade up for the public.

“The work wasn’t finished but we thought that was the better alternative than keeping the prom closed over the winter.

“Over the winter period we had a couple of issues one on the ramp and one on the upper coping, again these have been picked up and have now been rectified.

“One of the criticisms we have had is the sealing work hasn’t been finished off. We knew that wasn’t finished, we couldn’t put it in in cold temperatures so we have to have temperatures over 5 degrees.

“But again it doesn’t affect the structural stability of the wall so we opened up the promenade to let people in.

“We’ve received criticism that the job is not finished, we know the job is not finished, but we can’t do anything about mother nature and the temperature she gives us.

“Come spring time we’ll look to get back in there, getting the wall sealed off and getting the work undertaken.

“We didn’t ever say the scheme was done, likewise we didn’t really say the scheme wasn’t done, in hindsight that was something we should have done and something we’ll take forward for the future.”

Concerns had also been raised of an increased noise and vibration from the scheme.

Mr Bostock said there was ‘no engineering reason’ why this should occur and asked for time as the issues are looked in to while work is being complete.

He said: “We’re looking into that, there’s no engineering reason for that, we’ve not taken the old wall out, the old wall is still in place, if anything we’ve put a further barrier in front of it.

“It is something we’ve been made aware of in the past and we will continue to look in to.

“If you can give us the benefit of time we’re going to take that back and do further monitoring.”

He also hit back at claims the council had ‘taken the cheap option’ with work to install a ramp as part of the project.

Mr Bostock said: “If we’d have took the cheap option we wouldn’t have put the ramp in, the ramp was put in at the request of residents to improve access for people to the beach.

“If we wanted to take the cheap option we would have put the steps back in because that was the cheaper option.”

Coun Shane Moore, who represents Headland and Harbour, added residents had been consulted on the scheme for guidance.

He said: “The residents had input on that and requested the steps were replaced by the ramp.

“In fairness we were asked a lot to open the promenade, fisherman contacted me a lot, the promenade would be closed all over the winter period when no work was getting done, so the decision was made to open it up because we thought we were doing right.”

The Headland Scheme has been shortlisted by Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) North East for its Robert Stephenson Awards 2019 and Mr Bostock said it was a ‘really proud achievement’.

Nic Marko , Local Democracy Reporting Service