Thursday, 28 February 2008
ROCK WALK REPAIRS 'INDEFINITE'
11:00 - 28 February 2008
Torbay Council was today unable to put a timescale on when Torquay's main seafront road will be fully reopen.Deputy mayor Kevin Carroll had already suggested that repair work could run into months after experts revealed the full extent of stability of the Rock Walk cliff face.
Late yesterday a Torbay Council spokesman confirmed they have 'no time scale' of how long repairs could now take and would only confirm that it was 'indefinite'.It has also been revealed that landslides have already taken place during research work, heightening fears that larger boulders could come crashing down on to the road below.
A search has been launched to find a barrier to absorb any impact, but so far, estimates of eight weeks until delivery have been given.And even if barriers are put up, it is not known if they would be effective enough to allow the opening of both lanes of Torbay Road.Torbay Council say their priority now is to get one of the lanes open to two-way traffic as soon as possible.
Cllr Chris Lewis said: "We are currently being quoted up to eight weeks delivery time for specialist barriers."This is not acceptable as we wish to open up one side of the road as soon as possible, therefore we are considering other options that could be in place more quickly including a scaffolding system."We have met with a scaffolding company on site yesterday morning and are waiting for their design ideas which will also need to be agreed by our engineers and geologist specialists before we can go ahead.
"We are extremely disappointed that the initial survey of the rock face carried out earlier in the week has highlighted such serious problems as we had several rock falls occur while carrying out the work."However, I would like to assure local residents and businesses that we are doing everything we can to open the road as quickly as possible but their safety must be our first priority.
"The cost of the renovation could now top £1million.
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
Now read on.
27 February 2008
Torquay's main seafront road may not be back to normal for months and the repair bill for Rock Walk could top £1million, it emerged today.Geologists were today assessing the danger of unstable rocks on the cliff face with deputy mayor Kevin Carroll admitting: "It does not look good."Fears have been raised that the gardens and the full carriageway may not reopen this summer while expert repair work is carried out.But Torbay Council has said the extent of the problems won't be known until the geologists have conducted their survey, and they are keen to have the road reopened as soon as it is safe to do so, with two-way traffic using the seaward lane.
Experts using climbing gear raised the alarm over a section of the gardens near the Torbay Hotel after a closer inspection earlier in the week.It had been planned to open the seaside lane in one direction from Torquay to Paignton yesterday as the tree clearing work comes to an end.Now the council is hunting down strong barriers to be erected along the length of the central reservation past Rock Walk to protect traffic. This follows a rock fall last week at the Torbay Hotel end of the cliff face.Deputy mayor Kevin Carroll said: "It is a lot worse than expected. People's lives come first."It looks very bad, especially at the Torbay Hotel end.
The contractors are not letting anyone work in that area. You can see parts of the cliff face are unstable and I am shocked by what I saw."If there is a problem we have somehow got to deal with it, regardless of cost."We have agreed £2.25million of borrowing, but that was also to do the illuminations and Princess Pier. Maybe we will have to look to the government for support."At least now we should know the extent of the problems, I can't imagine what would have happened if we had not cleared the cliffs and there had been a rock fall on to traffic below."The tree experts and the contractors are worried."We have stripped it back and we have uncovered what is wrong and we have got to make sure the repairs are done. I want to see us push on as quickly as we can, though we don't yet know if we will be able to open the landward side of the road for the summer. It is going to take longer and it is going to be a lot more expensive."We won't know that until we get the geologist's report."He added: "What can we do? We cannot put people's lives at risk. We need to get barricades in as soon as possible to secure one carriageway and open up one side of the road to get the links with the town re-established again."Shopkeepers and the residents will be up in arms, but we can only do what we have to do."
He said traffic flow arrangements may have to be looked at around the area outside the closure.Cabinet member councillor Chris Lewis said: "This is extremely disappointing as we had hoped to open the seaward side of the road yesterday. However, we have had several rock falls occur during the works and there are serious concerns that if more should occur it could reach across both carriageways."Therefore we have no choice but to keep the road closed until suitable specialist barriers can be sourced."
Devon Tree Services expect to finish their work by next Wednesday and tomorrow are bringing in a large grinder which will chip up the remaining debris.
Angry traders affected by the Rock Walk road closure are calling a meeting to fight for a cut in their business rates bill.The Torquay harbourside businesses had believed they would qualify for a rebate because they claim trade has come to a standstill while the main seafront road has already been closed for a month.
On the Herald Express web site there is a space for readers to leave comments. To read the comments, and there were 29 last time I looked click here.
Tuesday, 26 February 2008
26 February 2008
Torquay seafront is to remain closed while geologist assess an area of Rock Walk cliff face which is said to be in danger of falling on to the road.Following a closer inspection by geologists using climbing gear, it has been decided the road will not reopen today as planned.
The picture is mine, not from the Herald Express.
Would you like to drive under this slab of rock which is 4 metres from top to bottom, you would need more than a couple of asprin if it hit you on the head. You would need a large box. And I don't mean a large box of asprin.
Saturday, 23 February 2008
The cliff face.
The Pier Cafe and Princess Theatre. And a road that is closed for buses.
The directors of Devon Tree Services would like to reply to Lincoln Shaw's article of February 20 ('A journey not to be repeated') with regards to the comment that 'a few trees have had to be pulled down' in relation to the traders who say the diversion for the work on Rock Walk has caused a slump in business.I fear for his safety, if the 15 arborists who have been working for three weeks, read that. I wonder whether Mr Shaw has been to the site. We would gladly have given him the time necessary to explain the reasons for the duration of road closures due to the tree dismantling.As a small business trading in Devon we fully understand how important looking after the customer is.Devon tree services has worked with speed and skill to ensure that the road closures have been kept to the minimum time. They have removed trees weighing 285 tonnes in total to date, on a cliff face, using the second largest crane in England.
Mr Shaw's comment appears a touch lightweight.
A W BURTON
Managing director, Devon Tree Services
11:00 - 23 February 2008
'WE will finish the job' is the pledge from council leaders over Torquay's Rock Walk facelift.
With most of the trees down and much of the scrub cleared and the crane work finished, the scale of the work to be done on the cliff face is all the more apparent.The extent of the work depends on a geological survey being carried out next week, said deputy mayor Kevin Carroll.
But he said that they would use a sum out of the £2.25million 'prudential borrowing' that had been agreed to tackle two or three major flagship projects in the coming year. The others could be the seafront illuminations and repairs to Princess Pier.
Mr Carroll said: "We have some money from planning agreements from the flats developments going on in Warren Road and there is no point in clearing the trees if we are not going on to finish the job.
"We know the rocks are moving and there are question marks over the rock ties used before. We won't know the extent of the work until next week's survey is completed.
"I don't know how soon we can get that work done. It may take longer than one season.
"But is our intention to use this prudential borrowing to sort out major projects.
"It would be futile to get all the work done so far without finishing off the job. We were hoping to get it done for the season, but we don't know if that is feasible. Perhaps we will do it next summer.
"It is all part of trying to turn the Bay around."
Initial geological surveys carried out this time last year revealed safety concerns over both the rocks and the state of the trees, some of which were over 100 years old and diseased.
The work on the cliff face may involve a scheme to replace and improve netting and bolts holding the cliffs up and making sure soil does not slip.
In 1997 Rock Walk suffered a landslide and Torquay Road had to be closed while repairs were carried out.
The gardens were closed to the public last December for safety reasons after high winds and heavy rain buffeted the cliff face.
The crane will leave Torquay today, but a date for reopening the road will not be known until after the geological survey.
Friday, 22 February 2008
10 readers have commented on this story. Click here to read their views.
11:00 - 20 February 2008
Flying through the air high above Rock Walk it is easy to see what a huge asset the cliff face garden could be for Torquay - and what a huge headache.Hanging in a bucket suspended below the second largest crane in Britain, the views on a blue February day were truly spectacular over the cliff to Torquay harbour and over the top of the buildings in Warren Road. But the thing that strikes you most as you glide around 70 metres up, is the sheer space that has been opened up on Torquay seafront.
What was once a tree-lined and in summer quite dark, enclosed area has been totally transformed.This week contractors Devon Tree Services from Ipplepen will have taken the last condemned tree out, and it is hoped that the crane can leave on Saturday.But now the real work begins.Clearing the tonnes and tonnes of trees and scrub has uncovered some attractive rock formations, opened up the once popular criss-cross pathways and even rediscovered bridges, seats and paths that few knew existed.But it has also uncovered the precarious state of some of the cliff face, with one chunk of rock having already fallen down to the road.The true extent of any problems won't be known until a full geological survey has been carried out next week. But even from the seafront you can see cracks and fissures uncovered by the clearance.Then there is the question of how to handle the remains of decades of leaf litter, plant debris, fallen tree limbs as well as the dozens of drinks cans and hypodermic needles which the tree men have had to contend with as they scramble up and down the steep cliff.It is something Torbay Council will be considering when the tree and scrub clearance work is completed, expected to be before the deadline of March 7, thanks to the good weather.
Now as you walk along the relative safety of the wide level pathway below Warren Road, the panoramic views that have been opened up down to the harbour, with Living Coasts, the piers and beyond, must be among the loveliest in Britain.It is a view that will have been revealed for some of those living in lower floor flats in Warren Road, where developers are hard at work creating luxury apartments out of former run-down hotels.And now that it has been cleared, it is easy to see that Rock Walk could be a major asset to the town's residents and visitors as somewhere to stroll and linger - if the challenges of securing the rock face, carrying out the repairs needed to paths and bridges, and suitable replanting and long term maintenance can be resolved.From the top of the crane, the layout of the maze of paths and bridges become clearer and as we scrambled up and down some of the rocky, uneven paths, you could just imagine people being attracted to its south facing slopes with ringside views over the tops of the seafront trees out to the water beyond, whether there are power boats, sailing boats, or other events in the Bay.It is hoped to have one side of the dual carriageway open to traffic during next week.But nobody can yet say when Rock Walk itself will be opened to the public.Torbay Council has paid the first £120,000 phase of the work out of the council's repairs and maintenance budget. The cost of any necessary work identified from the geological survey including repairs to bridges will be assessed. This could be in the region of £600,000. The council is being asked to approve a capital budget of £2.25million for structural repairs and maintenance to many of the council's key assets, of which Rock Walk is one.With mayoral approval, phase three will follow and will be the landscape design work and planting. There is currently just over £60,000 available from a number of section 106 agreement payments from developments in Warren Road available for phase three, some of which has already been spent on the concept plans.
If you click on this link it takes you to the article in the paper which has some photos and video footage.
Saturday, 16 February 2008
Rock Walk update
The improvement works to Rock Walk have now entered the last phase with more than three quarters of the rock face already cleared in the last three weeks.
The team have removed a further two large trees today and will be moving the crane along the rock face again this afternoon.
Weather permitting the crane will be removed and access along the seafront will be restored during the week commencing 25 February.
Arrangements are being made to open up the seaward side of the road for two-way traffic as soon as the crane is removed. However, the land side of the road will remain closed whilst the last of the scrub is cleared and a rock stability study has been carried out.
Cabinet Member Councillor Chris Lewis said: "We are now on the homeward stretch and I cannot praise the rock walk team enough for their hard work and commitment over the last few weeks.
"The tree climbers have been scaling dizzy heights above the harbour for many hours a day, six days a week and the ground team's methodical approach and hard work has pushed the project along at an incredible rate.
"We have pulled together the best tree climbers and ground work team in the South-west and they are all extremely tired. In order to keep up the momentum next week and ensure the safety of the workers, the team will be taking Saturday off to recharge the batteries but will be back bright and early on Monday morning.
"I am delighted that we will be able to open up the seafront road during the week commencing 25 February. We are currently making arrangements to suspend parking on the seaward side to allow two-way traffic whilst the land side remains closed until the rest of the scrub has been cleared and a site survey has been completed. This is unavoidable as there is still a danger of rock falls whilst work is carried out.
"I would once again like to thank local businesses and residents for their patience during this work."
Not a word of thanks for all the hard work us bus drivers have put in over the last 3 weeks.
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
Cabinet Member Councillor Chris Lewis said: "It really has been full steam ahead for the team currently working on the harbourside. We have been lucky to have a run of relatively good weather over the last few weeks. However, there is always plenty to do even if the weather turns, as it did on Saturday morning, and the crane is unable to operate.
"As well as the large trees, tonnes of scrub also has to be carefully cleared from site to avoid injury from potential rock falls, broken glass or needles found in the area which has really demonstrated why the improvement work was so necessary.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank local businesses and residents for their continued patience during the work and congratulate those on site for a fantastic job well done."
Monday, 11 February 2008
Saturday, 9 February 2008
Friday, 8 February 2008
11:00 - 07 February 2008
After less than two weeks, you can already see how the work at Rock Walk is about to change the face of Torquay's seafront forever.But the team of 14 tree surgeons who are clearing the cliff face are having to cope with more hazards than working in all-weather from ropes on an overgrown rock face, handling tons of wood up to 60 metres above the seafront, cutting trees up to 80 metres tall with trunks fat enough you could park a small family car on top of one.They are also dealing with thousands of discarded hypodermic needles as they go about their work. Its popularity as a 'den' for drug users is another reason Rock Walk is being transformed.As the work started the contractors were helped by street wardens to clear the site of rough sleepers, and the tree specialists have been given special training on handling potentially lethal sharps.They are also having to contend with broken bottles and discarded cans.But as site manager Jamie Beaulah of Ipplepen-based Devon Tree Services said, the kind of anti-social behaviour which goes on in parks and gardens across the country today make these hazards an everyday occurrence.At the weekend their work was watched by crowds of up to 300 to 400 people which goes to show how many people care deeply about what happens at Rock Walk.And the aim of the work is not only to make the area safe in terms of dangerous, diseased and dying trees, but to open it up so it is no longer a haven for drug and drink abusers.Instead it will be a popular, attractive garden area offering fantastic views across the Bay.The contractors have taken some flak for the destruction going on, with the felling of dozens of trees, some more than a hundred years old, and the clearance of scrub which has smothered the rockface and some of the paths following years of neglect.Jamie, from Teignmouth, explained: "This is probably a one-off job. This kind of job has not been done before within a town on a rock face. We hope to learn a lot from this for the industry nationally. It is quite unusual to use such a large crane for work on this scale."He said while there had been criticism of the road closure from local businesses, they had received some positive feedback as well."We are not in the job of destruction and taking down trees unnecessarily," he said. "And we are not cutting down trees and walking away. It is part of an ongoing programme. It's as if we are starting again at Rock Walk."If we didn't do this now we would be looking at a lot more disruption and potential damage in the future when trees do come down."He said some of the trees, particularly the 39 mature Monterey pines (Macrocarpus) were suffering from an air-bornE bacterial canker as well as old age. Looking at the trees which have been so much a part of the Torquay skyline for many years, you can see how some of them are thinning, browning and dying off.One in particular, near the Torbay Hotel, could easily have come down in the next year or two, said Jamie. Some of the 'seedling' Montereys will be left to grow on. Other ageing pines which will come out include Pinus Pinea and Maritime pines.Using the second largest mobile crane in Britain, they also brought to the ground an evergreen Holm oak which had been growing at an angle out of the rocks. The wood from that tree alone weighed 10 tonnes.Some Ilex oaks will also be coming out, but selected younger trees will be kept. Any tree which would not survive another 40 years is being taken out. The scrub will be brought back to manageable dimensions.The aim is to keep the more decorative trees and shrubs at the lower levels, including the magnificent magnolia grandifolia near the Palm Court Hotel, which was in danger of disappearing under invading greenery, as well as arbutus, palms and other specimen trees.Jamie said: "Rock Walk has been in decline. I think a lot of it has been left too long. The plan is to put back a Mediterranean-style terrace garden. It will look a bit stark to start with, but once it starts growing it should look lovely."The project is taking a lot of paperwork as well, with 12-hour days a regular feature. Extensive surveys and health and safety risk assessments had to be carried out.He explained: "The only reason for the road closure was to accommodate such a large crane. We did our research with the council about the timing of the project. We have had to take into account the anti-social behaviour that has been going on up there."We are working at huge heights, with very dangerous trees, and as dangerous - if not more so - are the thousands of hypodermic needles scattered about."Every one of my guys has had special training to identify and deal with sharps, including the worst-case scenario of being injured."In our job it is becoming more and more the norm in the parks and gardens we work in, but it is the case right across the country."I have walked the area so many times now, and because of the way people are using it, I wouldn't walk up there after 6pm."Jamie is very optimistic about the future for Rock Walk. "When it is cleared and replanted and the new lights shine up to the top of the cliff I think it will be a very exciting project. The work we are doing now is a small drop in the ocean compared with the whole project. We have got to clear it sufficiently for the geologists to work. We are taking as much of the scrub off as we can which is a huge task in itself. The whole cliff face has got to be made safe."This seems to be the flagship project for the new Torbay, the first of a series. The rock face itself is beautiful. Lit up at night it will draw people in and be a real asset. We have opened up two footpaths nobody knew anything about. The footpaths will be redone and the bridges rebuilt as part of the third phase. We have had some really positive comments from people which has been great."A spokesman for Torbay Council confirmed the first £120,000 phase of the work has been paid for out of the council's repairs and maintenance budget. The cost of any necessary work identified from the geological survey including repairs to bridges will be assessed. This could be in the region of £600,000. The council will be asked to approve a capital budget of £2.25million for structural repairs and maintenance to many of the council's key assets of which Rock Walk is one.With mayoral approval, phase three will follow and will be the landscape design work and planting. There is currently just over £60,000 available from a number of section 106 agreement payments from developments in Warren Road available for phase three, some of which has already been spent on the concept plans. The aim is to have more lush tropical planting on the lower levels, progressing to sparser planting further up the rock face with, at the top, low aromatic herbs and succulents, plants that need less aftercare and maintenance.The tropical planting along the roadside will be renovated and replanted.
Wednesday, 6 February 2008
As the 'Rock Walk team' gear up for a second week of work high above the harbour, the project is being hailed as a huge success.
So far six large trees and an extensive area of scrub has been removed weighing in excess of 56 tonnes and work is due to move further along the rock face tomorrow.
Cabinet Member Councillor Chris Lewis said: "It has really been full steam ahead for the team working on Rock Walk and the results are really starting to show.
"An extensive part of the rock face has now been cleared and the community and visitors can start to get a better picture of how it may look in the future once the improvements works have been completed.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank local businesses and residents for their patience and feedback. Although there appears to have been very few problems with the diversions we have now arranged for additional signs, advertising the diversions, to be placed at the Belgrave Road junction and on Newton Road at the request of some businesses.
"I would also like to remind those travelling into and around Torbay that we are still open for business and access remains open to all of the town centre car parks."
Sunday, 3 February 2008
02 February 2008
Traders in hard-hit Fleet Street have signed up to a new parking refund scheme to entice shoppers into town while Torquay seafront is closed.Businesses are reporting losses of up to 50 per cent due to restricted access to the harbourside end of town, which is expected to last for up to three weeks until work to remove dangerous trees from Rock Walk is completed.And bosses at bus company Stagecoach says the diversions are costing them up to £4,000 a week extra.To combat the slump in trade, nine independent shops have so far agreed to participate in the Show Us Your Disc scheme which sees £1 refunded towards parking when shoppers spend over a certain amount.
All people have to do is produce their yellow disc from the Fleet Walk pay-on-foot car park, which has seen the number of cars parking there plummet.John James, owner of Paul James jewellers on Fleet Street, instigated the scheme to combat the negative impact and is hopeful more shops will come onboard.He said: "Fleet Walk car park is practically empty at the moment because people don't realise it's open. If a customer spends over a certain amount then we will give them £1 towards parking."So in theory people could park for free all day if they spend enough money in different shops. I came to work at 11.30am on Tuesday and there were only 28 cars parked in Fleet Walk. It would seem people are avoiding the town full stop.
"The closure of the seafront is costing businesses so much. I would say we're 50 per cent down. It was a quiet Christmas and now we've got a quiet time again, which is causing no end of problems."John said he lost a £600 sale on Monday because a customer said they couldn't get through from Paignton and were unaware of the diversion routes.All he is asking from businesses is £2 to cover the cost of printing the posters, which shops participating in the refund scheme will display in their windows detailing how much people have to spend to get their parking refund.
Shops which have signed up so far are Pet Shop Buoys, In House, Blue Geranium florist, Oh Wow, Lippy, Animal Crackers, The Kitchen Shop, The Candle Shop, Angels Fly South and Paul James.Annie Roberts, general manager at Hoopers department store, says trade has been 'dramatically' impacted since Monday.She's working with the council to send out positive messages to get shoppers into the town centre.Annie said: "The seafront being closed has had quite a dramatic effect on trade, which has been a surprise. I've reduced sale stock even further to compensate for it."There's definite confusion and people have the impression that it's difficult to get into town. A lot of our trade comes from people taking short breaks and tourists head for the seafront."They see it's closed and don't know the routes around it to find the car parks, which is something the council is looking to improve.
"The closure of Torquay's seafront is also having an impact on bus company Stagecoach, which says it is costing it more than £3,000 a week putting on extra buses to cope with extended journey times and different routes.Managing director of Stagecoach Devon Chris Hilditch explained: "It's now obviously a longer route so to run the same timetable and service we need more buses."We think it's also going to cost us a little bit in revenue because people are deciding not to come into town. It's a nuisance for them. We haven't calculated it as yet but I would estimate a loss of around £1,000 a week.
"The council says it has put up information signs and held an information day to make sure people are aware of the new arrangements.The seafront, from Belgrave Road to the Pavilion, has been closed to all traffic since Monday and will remain so for at least the next two weeks while 35 dangerous trees are felled along Rock Walk by a 65-tonne crane.
Notes about the blog. Updated 08 March 2008
After that when work starts again later in the year I will post more photos.
Any news items I come across I will post as they appear in the local paper.
Or you can work through the whole blog to find more detail.
If you left click on a photo you get a larger image.
Each day has the label "Day", click on it and you will miss out the other posts.
Articles from the Herald Express are labelled Herald Express.
And so on.
Please feel free to leave a comment.