Throughout the summer, contractors working on behalf of Wirral Council’s partner on the flood alleviation scheme at West Kirby – VolkerStevin – have been working along the length of South Parade to complete the piling works by the end of this month.
These ‘piles’ are up to 18 metres long and – once installed – provide the foundations of a base slab structure before construction can begin above ground level.
At West Kirby, the piling works have been taking place in eight distinct sections and as piling ends at each section, a programme of load testing then takes place to ensure they can bear the weight of the final construction.
Only once these tests have been satisfied in each section can the workers then move on to the next phase of construction.
There have been rumours locally around West Kirby that have speculated about whether there were problems or issues with the works because activity along sections of the wall seemed to have stalled.
This was largely due to the load testing process, which is an essential part of the project. While it is true it has taken a little longer than expected to complete and review the load test results, the piling works themselves have gone well.
Along with the old concrete break-out works, these were the elements of the programme most disruptive to residents and visitors and they remain on schedule to be completed by October as planned.
Residents will shortly start to see steel reinforcement and concrete works taking place, then work will begin to start building back the promenade, which will involve installing the wall with integrated seating from October and then resurfacing the promenade area, starting at the north end. Lighting columns will then be installed.
The programme is monitored and reviewed regularly and the current advice from the contractors is that the end date for the completion of the whole scheme could now be early 2023, not November as previously forecast.
Although it is disappointing that the remaining elements of the works will continue beyond Christmas, the council will be working with the contractor to open discrete sections of the promenade as soon as they are finished.
Conscious of the need to comply with one of the planning conditions put in place in response to the Habitat Regulations Assessment, there is an ecological monitoring officer on site to ensure that none of the works or activities are causing significant disturbance to bird populations. This officer is also currently monitoring the anticipated return of the migrating birds that call West Kirby home during the winter months.
Finally, another interesting development is that workers discovered part of a sandstone wall near to the old baths site that it is believed was part of the original old baths structure.
This will be left in place and built over to provide part of the foundation to the new open space to be formed at the old baths site, which has reduced the need for some of the piling in this area.
This new public open space will be suitable for staging a range of events such as food festivals, markets, music and art performances.