Thursday, 6 March 2008

From the Herald Express 06 March 2008

06 March 2008
Clearing Rock Walk of scrub and unsafe trees was the right thing to do, according to a geological expert.The neglect of the past 20 years which has allowed the scrub and trees to grow has probably contributed to the instability of the rock face, said Dr Kevin Page of Plymouth University.It comes as the councillor in charge of the work, Chris Lewis, has defended the decision to clear the rock face.Dr Page, chairman of a group of experts on the internationally recognised geology of Devon and a member of the English Riviera Geopark group, said: "The best way to maintain a rock face is to clear it. If it is covered with vegetation you cannot monitor what is going on underneath."The professor who chairs the Devon Regionally Important Geological Sites Group said that now that the site is cleared, and a risk assessment has been carried out, engineers can design retaining work to enable the gardens to reopen.

This is an expert, you can tell, he never used the expression,"it stands to reason."

It is also, I hope, the last word on the subject of whether or not Rock Walk should or should not have been cleared that will appear in this blog.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

From the Herald Express. 04 March 2008


04 March 2008

Torbay mp Adrian Sanders today said 'serious questions' need to be raised over the extent of work at Rock Walk.But, he added: "It's cock-up rather than conspiracy."As work began on a giant £43,000 barrier to allow traffic to resume along Torquay's main seafront road, the MP questioned if such widespread clearance of the cliff face was needed."Everyone loves a conspiracy theory but I'd err on the side of caution," he said.

"People have asked me why the work was carried out in the way it was and I don't have the answer."I'm not a qualified engineer but even I know that if you slash and burn such an area you are bound to make it less stable."(How do you know that? At what university did you study such things?) The scale of the works has surprised everyone and serious questions are being asked about the necessity of such extensive clearing of trees and shrubs that, historically, have held in the cliff face and prevented rock falls."(Says who? A man in a pub?)This is an example of a lack of attention to detail on the planning front and, I'm afraid, that's another consequence of having a elected mayoral system."He added: "Cllr Chris Lewis is being fronted up for everything to do with Rock Walk but he doesn't have the executive decision-making powers."He has to run everything by the mayor or his deputy."With the old system, at least the cabinet could take a decision."Sure they made plenty of mistakes, but this is the kind of example of the problems you get when one person is responsible for everything."

The words in brackets are mine, they did not appear in the paper. Maybe they should have? Shortly after this little message was published Torbay Council issued the following Press Release:-

Rock Walk update

Cabinet Member Councillor Chris Lewis said: "The scaffolding works at Rock Walk are on schedule to be completed within the allocated two-week time frame."The scaffolding framework is progressing at a fantastic rate and is due to be completed by tomorrow evening (Wednesday). The substantial structure will then have additional one tonne weights placed down the centre to provide further stability should a rock fall occur."The seaward road is currently being re-marked in preparation for two-way traffic and the boards that will cover both sides of the structure will start to go up from Thursday this week and painting will start from Friday 7 March.

"Geologists Frederick Sherrell Ltd will be on site next week to start a full survey of the rock face. This should take no more than two weeks and the resulting report is expected by Thursday 1 May. We will then be in a position to tender the contract - practically this could take up to three months and being mindful of the noise and disruption the work will cause we hope to have work started on site immediately after the summer period.

"It would appear that some people still believe that the stability issues at Rock Walk have been caused by the recent clearance work and I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight."A geological report carried out on Rock Walk last year highlighted major areas of concern regarding the stability of the rock face and some of the large trees. However, the extent of the issue could not be identified until the trees and scrub had been cleared.

"Despite recent speculation I can confirm that the trees have been cut off at the base leaving a tree stump and at no time during the works were any tree roots disturbed - therefore we did not create the problem we have simply exposed the full extent of it. "There was a possibility that areas of the rock face/trees could have come down onto the road below and therefore carrying out remedial repairs would not have sufficed.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank local residents and businesses for their continued patience. I know that the essential works have been extremely hard for many in the area but their safety has to be our main priority."

(And an extra big thank you to all the bus drivers who have been coping so well with the diversion and all the extra work this has caused them.)

Once again the words in brackets are mine. They did no appear in the press release, maybe next time.

Paragraphs 3 and 4 appear to be having a dig at Adrian Sanders MP (Lib Dem) who should know better. He turned up at the site, had his photo taken and, according to eyewitnesses spoke to no one before leaving. He then made a statement (see above) to the press in which he admitted he wasn't an expert but made a assertion that only an expert should make. An assersion that is, in fact, incorrect.

This photo is of a rose bush in my garden. It never flowered,probably because it never got enough sun light. So two years ago I decided to put it out of it's misery and cut it down. I didn't dig the root up and last year and again this year it is demonstrating that the roots are still working. Same with the roots of the trees and bushes that are still there on the cliff face. So how,come the cliff face is falling down even though, as some people believe, the roots were binding the cliff face together. They haven't gone so they must still be holding the cliff up. Actually the roots were the cause of the problem. Roots bind soil together, they push cliff faces apart. The only difference is now when a slab of rock comes tumbling down the cliff face and smashes into my bus it wont have a 15 tonne tree attached to it.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

From the Herald Express

Below is an article from the local paper, Local traders are upset that the sea front will now be closed for 7 weeks instead of the 6 weeks that was promised. Some of them are demanding that Fleet Street be opened up to cars and taxis as well as buses. There is a bend in the middle of Fleet Street which means you can not see if the road is clear. We, the bus drivers can talk to each other over the radio and tell drivers to wait if the road is blocked. Car drivers can not and it would be chaos if cars came into Fleet St. Belive me, I'm a bus driver and I have driven up and down there at least ten thousand times and know how difficult that 300 metre stretch of road can be. You want the biggest traffic jam Torquay has ever known? Let cars into Fleet St.
This is the small queue that builds up when cars do get into Fleet St illegally from Braddons Hill Road West. Let them all come in and see if I care.


01 March 2008

Struggling Fleet Street traders in Torquay today demanded a trade-boosting lifeline as they suffer during the prolonged closure of the resort's main seafront road.They want traffic allowed back into Fleet Street in a desperate bid to claw back lost trade in the wake of the Rock Walk clearance work.Torbay Council says it is doing all it can, but one trader told the Herald Express: "We've been left to die."

The renewed call for help comes as Torbay Council has admitted the promenade route will be closed to vehicles for a further two weeks.

Contractors have been appointed to build a £43,000 safety barrier to allow vehicles to flow along Torbay Road free from the danger of possible rock falls.But the task will take up to a fortnight, with work on the cliff itself not expected to even start before the end of the summer.

Ailing traders in the town centre want semi-pedestrianised Fleet Street opened up until the temporary structure is in place.Torbay Council, who have not rejected the proposal outright, say they have safety concerns about changing the flow of traffic. But they have promised to consider free and cut-price parking as an alternative.There are already plans for traffic to be allowed on the seaward side of Torbay Road in both directions.Work on a barrier will start on Monday, involving a 410-metre scaffolding and board structure along the length of the carriageway from the old toll house to the Torbay Hotel."

Michelle Curtis, of the Seconds Out watch shop at the GPO roundabout in Torquay, said it was already 'chaos' in Fleet Street so it might as well be opened to one-way traffic.She said: "The whole town is dead. They should open it one-way while the seafront is closed. Something has got to be sorted out. Everybody is suffering here.You just have to look at the number of empty shops."

Martin Hayward, controller at Torquay Taxis, estimated that about a dozen people had rung up to get a cab to drive to the Imperial Hotel... so they could follow it in their cars.He said: "It's been unbelievable. There are no signs directing people all the way around. Visitors have been getting totally lost. One chap I guided up there in my own private car because he had been looking for it for over two hours. It would really help to have Fleet Walk open to us.

Robert Excell, chairman of South Devon Chamber of Trade, said they had asked before Rock Walk work started for Fleet Walk to be opened one way and for free parking.He said: "I am very concerned and don't want to see that road closed for one day longer than necessary. It is really affecting people and we are putting as much pressure as we can on to get the work done as quickly as possible and the council is doing all it can."I think there could be problems with the condition of Fleet Street. It was only designed for the smaller buses not double deckers."Half price parking is a concession, it is better than nothing.

But we will continue to ask for a better deal for the traders who are suffering big time.""I am not sure about opening Fleet Walk as in places it is quite narrow and if there are buses going one way and traffic the other it could cause chaos. The buses would not be happy if they couldn't use Fleet Street."If free parking is feasible and it attracts more people into town, maybe we should go for that."

Deputy mayor Kevin Carroll said they hoped to have the road re-opened in two week's time."We want to get work started on Monday. We will be putting up scaffolding and painting the seaward side."We are looking at some of the fringe car parks, not the town centre ones, and reduce charges to encourage people to use them more."I know the road has been closed for a long time but it is only two weeks longer and we have done everything in our power to get it reopened as soon as we can."Retailing is going through a difficult period nationally, and February is always flat, but hopefully the parking charge reduction will help."But he said they would continue half-price parking in Shedden Hill, Beacon Quay and The Terrace.

Cabinet Member councillor Chris Lewis said: "A number of options were considered for the diversion. The seafront road is the A379 and as such any diversion routes should be along similar sized roads that can safely take the size and volume of traffic."Fleet Street is a shared surface road and is currently only open to buses during the day which, through a local agreement, drive at 10mph with their lights on."While the safety record for Fleet Street is relatively good we have in the past received concerns from pedestrians who feel intimidated by the level of traffic that already exists."It would make the situation far worse if Fleet Street was open to all traffic, even in a one-way direction."As the existing street was designed to allow pedestrians to share the space with the buses, it would not be appropriate for all traffic to use the road. The sheer volume of traffic would also make it almost impossible for the bus services to travel in the opposite direction through the narrow sections of the road."

"We are doing everything we can to ensure that at least one side of the seafront road is open as soon as possible." A further meeting with geological experts will take place next week with the full cost not revealed until May.

A contract can then be put out to tender with work not expected to start until after the summer.

Notes about the blog. Updated 08 March 2008

Not much is happening at Rock Work now. All the work clearing the trees has been done. A barrier has been erected to prevent rock falls from reaching the road. Now we wait for the geological survey in May to see what can be done to fix the rocks in place.
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.

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Articles from the Herald Express are labelled Herald Express.

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