Sea wall cost soars to £29m

THE cost of Weston's sea defence scheme has soared to £29million - but outraged traders and residents say they have still not been consulted

THE cost of Weston's sea defence scheme has soared to £29million - but outraged traders and residents say they have still not been consulted.The spiralling expense of the huge project, due to start next week, has almost quadrupled from early estimations of about £7.5million back in April 2005.The scheme, which is hoped to protect around 4,500 properties from flooding, includes raising the height of the sea wall and building a 'splash wall' along the promenade.Seafront traders and residents were promised they would be consulted on the scheme and given the chance to talk about possible alternatives to the splash wall - which many business owners claim could kill the town's seaside trade.But they say they are still to hear from North Somerset Council, which is working closely with the Environment Agency and Government officials from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) in developing the project.Sophia Michael, owner of the Seaward Hotel in Knightstone Road, said: "We are still waiting patiently to discuss alternatives to the splash wall as we were promised months ago."Engineers will begin the first phase of the massive scheme next week when they start to lay a 'haul road' across the Marine Lake. This will be used to transport tools and machinery to the causeway, which will be reinforced.The lake will be dredged in late September. New sluice gates and ramps will be installed and the lake's beach will be made bigger. This work is hoped to be finished by April next year.The second phase of the scheme is set to start in August 2008 and involves rebuilding the 'toe' of the sea wall and raising and strengthening it, creating a 'splash' wall on the promenade between the Grand Pier and Knightstone Island and enhancing the promenade.The total cost of the project will now be £29million, which includes £27.8million in funding from DEFRA and £1.2million from Weston's Civic Pride programme.North Somerset Council has invested £325,000 over the past four years and paid out another £340,000 this summer to start the Marine Lake work. The Wessex Regional Flood Defence committee has also ploughed £250,000 into the project and the council has extracted £150,000 from the Local Transport Plan.Much of the increase in cost has been put down to the need to build a £7.7million concrete 'toe' along the bottom of the existing sea wall, a measure the Environment Agency has insisted upon.Another £1.6million increase has been put down to inflation since 2005 and a further £2.25million inflation costs are expected over the next three years when the work takes place.A 'contingency fund' of about £6million has also been included to cover unexpected costs. Another £1.46million will be spent on designing the scheme and enhancements to the seafront south of the Tropicana are now also planned at a cost of nearly £600,000.Originally the work was planned to take place over the course of a year, but due to the availability of Government cash it will now take place over three years, which has bumped the cost up by another £450,000.

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