SONS OF NEPTUNE
The Rock Armour, Accropodes and Wave Return Wall Project at Marine Drive, Scarborough.
Whilst consultations with regard to this £20m scheme had been ongoing during 2001 and possibly earlier both the Sons of Neptune and the Scarborough and District Civic Society had been excluded from such consultations which proved to be catastrophic as the Sons could have pointed out the problems which would later be encountered. An apology eventually came from Scarborough Council for this exclusion 'oversight' but only after the project had been instructed. The subsequent involvement of the Audit Commission led to all the engineering documents being made available to the Sons and the Civic Society from which we discovered that 400 metres of the wave return wall and rock armour on the North West Side of the Marine Drive were never needed at all! The reply was they were put there to match up with the rest! We could have pointed out, given the chance, that waves would have had to have generated OVER LAND for any sea defence works at all to be required in that area! Much of the rest of the project was grossly over-engineered. It was also the very area where the unnecessary work was carried out that had raised a multitude of complaints from hoteliers that their guests could not sleep at night for the noise of piles being driven in and boulders stacked up against the sea wall. What the hoteliers would have said had they known that most of the work that disturbed them for months on end was never necessary is probably unprintable.
But worse was to come. When the Sons and the Civic Society realised that the nature of this project would destroy the heritage value and appearance of this famous Victorian promenade and many of its amenities they did all within their power to prevent it. The traditional old iron seaside railings would be lost and replaced with a modern concrete wall. No more views for young children or wheel chair users. Restricted views for anyone in cars. The magnificent sweep, curvature and character of the old Victorian sea wall gone forever. It would be the end of any media interest for period dramas and their economic value to the Town.
And all unnecessary. A scheme grossly over engineered. The sea wall was capable of repair. The use of rock armour could have been restricted mainly to the exposed North East corner only and East Pier as the rock armour alone would have reduced the incidence of closure of the Drive to once every 3 years. This would have vastly reduced the cost of the project.
And the outcome? An Audit Commission investigation. They found that the the procurement of the Council's Consultants had been unfair and unlawful as it had not been open to competition. And there was worse to come. There had never been a geophysical survey before the work started! Difficulties were then discovered as the work progressed! £20m overspend resulted which could never be recovered from the contractors.
Had the Sons been consulted in the first place they could have pointed out from knowledge of previous studies where difficulties would be encountered. The result has been an environmental and financial disaster for the Town. The Marine Drive was a piece of classic Victorian marine engineering only in need only of repair. Even children and wheelchair users could fish from the railings. It was a favourite place for anglers all year round. Now the angling amenity is gone forever except for the few who are nimble enough to climb over the wall with a ladder and scramble over uneven and often slippery rock armour.
This loss of amenity scenery and architecture is in the opinion of the Sons an act of environmental vandalism. Period dramas now carefully avoid the Marine Drive as they need a backdrop of the old iron railings and views of the Sea through them. For that reason some of the Town's most impressive scenery is out of bounds. That is also an economic disaster. Both the Sons and the Civic Society worked very hard to prevent it ever happening.