Construction worker proud of working on West Kirby flood wall said he faced ‘daily abuse’

A construction worker on a £20m sea wall said he faced daily abuse while on the job.

Eric Wade from Wallasey was a worker for Volkerstevin over a period of seven months on the West Kirby sea wall after previously being an aircraft engineer.

The project, which eventually cost £19.7m, was built between 2022 and 2023 to protect a number of properties along the seafront in West Kirby as well as save lives in the long term during storms.

However it faced petitions and heavy public opposition but following completion, public opinion towards the project has improved. Councillors said they have since received many positive comments about the improvements to the promenade with far more people visiting the area since.

However, below a recent post by Wirral Council showing the wall holding back water , Mr Wade said, “I put up with 7 months of daily abuse working on that job. Proved mine and the other lads’ hard work actually works. I’ve never been spoken to so badly in my life as I did working on that job.”

Speaking to the LDRS, he said, “As a whole, it wasn’t all bad but there was a lot of negativity towards the job from the local population.” During construction, a lot of the road and pavements were closed off by barriers but Mr Wade said people would take signs down and move fences and walk through the construction site.

When people were told they couldn’t do that, Mr Wade said people would argue back, adding, “You obviously got a mouthful trying to stop them coming through. I couldn’t physically stop them but they were putting themselves in danger.” Some would even swear at them and he claimed one woman once kicked and banged on his car while he was parked on her street eating his lunch.

When visiting the nearby Morrisons for lunch in their high-vis jackets, he said they “had a lot of people giving us trouble”. Over a period of several weeks, he said people would leave dog poo inside the water weights they used to keep fencing in place which needed to be ‘derailed’ daily to let machines go past.

He said this was reported to management, adding, “We had a lot of people not wanting us there. We had people parking their cars in the way on the road. It would stop the job. We had to call the police a few times.”

He also said he was not the only worker getting abuse and wishes the issue had been acknowledged, adding, “It was quite an experience.”

Mr Wade said he is proud of the work, adding, “It was a good job and I am happy with the way it was finished. I think it looked good. It needs to be updated. The prom was a bit run down. The pavement and the fencing needed some money spent on it. Since then, it has been shown to actually work.”

To those he claims gave workers abuse, he said there were ways people could have raised issues with the council and protest, adding, “I think people like me, we were just trying to make a living. We never designed it and we never said the costs would go up so much further. We were just doing what we were asked to do. Hopefully, if you look back in a few years, you will look back positively on what we have done,”

He said, “It does look better and hopefully it will save the houses from being flooded for years to come.”

Councillor Liz Grey, the chair of Wirral Council’s environment committee and supporter of the project, said she had had many people tell her they had changed their mind since construction finished. While she said this was the first time she was aware of abuse faced by staff, she called the dog fouling accusations “disgusting behaviour”.

She said, “I am really upset and disappointed that some members of the public thought it was appropriate to talk to people in that way,” adding, “It must have been so frustrating for the workers who would have had to go out of their way to clean up and move things again. I am really sorry to hear what they went through because all we saw was really hard and efficient work.

“There are a lot of people praising the work and the quality of the workmanship. I just thought they were wonderful. They were there in all weathers. They were there all day. I was inspired by their work ethic.”

A spokesperson for VolkerStevin said, “The welfare and wellbeing of our employees has always been, and always will be our priority. We had a customer team based on site with a dedicated office for members of the public to direct any questions or queries, these would then be escalated to senior management if required.

“Following completion of the wave wall the feedback we have received from residents has been very positive.”

Conservative Councillors for Hoylake and Meols, Andrew Gardner and Tony Cox who previously criticised the sea wall project did not respond to a request for comment.

Image: Piling being carried out at West Kirby Flood Scheme by VolkerStevin specialists. Credit: Wirral Council

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