A milestone has been reached in Brighton and Hove City Council’s ambitious plans to preserve the city’s historic seafront and to prevent the chalky foundations of the coastal road from eventually collapsing.
Engineers working on the prom have now finished a massively complex operation to reinforce the ground and the buildings along the foot of West St, that clears the way for the next phase of the scheme, and a key purpose of the operation, to start actually rebuilding the Victorian shelter hall.
Those of you who have walked the promenade over the last 6 months or so will have no doubt noticed the hoardings around the old Shelter Hall which has seen the walk-way extended out into the road going past the Odeon, and shared with cyclists. Behind the wooden walls, complex engineering works have been going on to make the road, path, and buildings more structurally sound, and to ensure that this strip of Brighton’s seafront remains in tact for many years to come.
The aim is to create modern business premises which can earn money for future upkeep, and also provide the area with new public toilets, but
it’s been no easy task and more complexed and could have been envisaged.
It’ll be a familiar tale to anyone who’s ever started work on an old building and found things beneath the surface worse than they’d hoped, or anyone that has watched the travails of ambitious couples on Grand Designs through their fingers. At The Shelter Hall site, both the ground and the former fisherman’s arches were much more unstable than anticipated, and at one stage a sinkhole opened up in the chalk requiring six cement mixers full of concrete to fill.
The whole operation has meant a complex and far-reaching engineering solution has had to be developed to re-enforce and stabilise the ground and the arches.
Before that could even start, a substantial and elaborate system of propping was installed to keep everything in place. Only once everything
was held firm could workers start installing permanent strengthening. Key to this was a huge concrete wall sunk into the ground to stop the hidden chalk cliffs beneath the road collapsing towards the sea.
The scale is quite hard to grasp; the wall was made by sinking a row of 24 concrete piles close together, each one nearly a metre thick and
going almost 20 metres into the ground, that’s about the distance between the two wickets on a cricket pitch, or three times as tall as a giraffe.
The reinforcement measures undertaken in the project have been complex, and have resulted in a network of concrete piles underpinning the existing structure like massive underground legs holding up the building.
When the project is finished, it will have been worthwhile as the historic and much improved shelter structure will be much more efficient and will be both an important asset to the city, and an important marker of Brighton’s past meeting Brighton’s future, adding another texture to Brighton’s seafront whilst generating enough income to support it’s future upkeep and maintenance.
Mark Prior, Brighton and Hove City Council’s Head of Transport, spoke about the importance of works to the future sustainability of the structure and the project; “I think it’s really important, we have also completed the reinforcement to the foot way and the carriageway so we’ve done our job in terms of being a highway authority and have maintained the highway so that the highway and the structure will be there for the next hundred and twenty ears, all good”