The council’s engineering team gets involved in a wide range of projects across the district, says Dave Turner, East Devon's Engineering Projects Manager
East Devon District Council’s engineering team kicked off 2017 with some social media training given by colleagues from the Communications service, who showed us how we can use Twitter and Facebook to let people know about the work we’re carrying out and events that we are organising. We tweet using the hashtag #EDDCengineers from the main @eastdevon corporate account. Just type #EDDCengineers into the search box on Twitter and you will be able to see our tweets from throughout 2017.
Other work in January involved reviewing tenders from companies who wanted to be considered for work inspecting our cliffs each year, planning bridge inspections for the year, working with our colleagues in the property team to arrange repairs to our sewers, and Health and Safety training with the Construction Industry Training Board to improve our systems.
February saw us working with East Devon’s Car Parking service to overlay the existing surface at King Street car park in Honiton. It had been identified in 2016 as needing renewing, but because it involved laying new tarmac and relining all the spaces, we put off the work until after Christmas so as not to disrupt Christmas trade.
Part of the service our team provides is the construction, operation and maintenance of play areas and in March, a member of our team who is particularly involved in that type of work went to Exeter to renew his qualification to inspect play areas – we’re pleased to say he passed with flying colours. Because of our involvement in play areas, we often get asked for advice by other groups in East Devon, so later in March we went with our colleagues from the Planning team to meet local people from Ottery St Mary to discuss a new skate park for the village.
Many of our projects involve working closely with external partners, such as the Environment Agency (EA), who we’ve been liaising with on a project in Exmouth to reduce the risk of flooding to over 1,400 homes and 400 businesses. In March, we received tenders from three companies to complete the detailed design and construction of new and improved flood defences. So we’ve been busy assessing these tenders in terms of quality and price with the EA.
In April we began work on a new games area at Manstone in Sidmouth – this is a project we have worked on jointly with Sidmouth Town Council, using money from housing developments in the town to improve play facilities.
Work to complete the Sidmouth Beach Management Plan also came to an end in April, with East Devon’s cabinet adopting the plan, which had been put together by our engineering consultants CH2M. The plan sets out the work needed in the next five years, to manage the risk of flooding and coastal erosion along Sidmouth Beach and East Beach. A key recommendation is the development of a scheme to reduce the risk of flooding to Sidmouth by maintaining healthy beach levels across Sidmouth Beach and East Beach.
In May, we appointed Royal Haskonging DHV to start work on the outline design and the business case, which we hope will help us gain government funding for a Beach Management Scheme for Sidmouth. An important part of this work involved getting accurate and up-to-date information about the seabed in front of the beach. So together with Plymouth Coastal Observatory, we arranged surveys to take place, so as not to delay this work.
We also started meeting with stakeholder groups, local residents and beach users in Seaton as part of a project to develop a Beach Management Plan (BMP) for Seaton Beach and Axmouth Harbour. Seaton has some issues that are similar to Sidmouth, with homes at risk from flooding and coastal erosion. The study was part funded by East Devon District Council, with the remainder of funding from the EA, who provide us with grants for work to reduce the risk of flooding and coastal erosion.
On an annual basis, we inspect the condition of all our car parks, so in June we were out and about visiting all the car parking sites across the district. We use this information to plan any capital works for the following financial year and to identify any more urgent patching or repair work. These inspections complement the more frequent visits by our car park inspectors, who are always keeping an eye out for anything that might be a hazard for our customers.
Over the summer, we received tenders for a brand new play area at Northwood Acres, which is being constructed as part of the Cranbrook development and is the latest of several play parks we’ve worked on jointly to deliver with Cranbrook Town Council and the developers at Cranbrook. For all our play parks, the involvement of local children is really important in helping us select the new design.
We’re very fortunate to be working within the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, but one of the downsides of the Jurassic Coast’s geology is that it is quite weak and prone to rock falls and landslides. As part of our work to safeguard the people who use and enjoy our fantastic beaches, we’ve been putting together a protocol to help our StreetScene colleagues respond to cliff falls and landslides. This work was completed in August, ready for adoption by senior managers.
September is often a busy month for us, as this is when we prepare capital bids for works we’d like to do the following financial year. This could be funding for managing flooding (either inland, or coastal) or erosion, renewal of play parks and skate parks, repair and improvements to car parks, and a whole host of other projects identified throughout the year. Scopes and budget estimates are needed for all of these, to allow the council time to consider which projects to include in our capital programme.
After a lot of hard work with the East Devon Fishermen’s Association and the team at Dorset and East Devon Fisheries Local Action Group, we received confirmation in October that the FLAG board has approved our application for a grant from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund for improvements in the facilities at Axmouth Harbour. This is the most recent of a number of projects that we’ve helped the fishermen with in the past few years and these latest improvements will help the fishermen keep their catch cleaner and improve the working environment, all of which helps sustain the small fishing fleet based here.
In October, we also completed changes to the layout of Manor Pavilion Theatre’s new public car park in Sidmouth. This is a project that was undertaken jointly with the Countryside team, which manages the venue and our Car Parks team. Grass reinforced mesh was used to extend the car parking area, which helps keep the site greener, and avoids issues, such as drainage, that we might otherwise have had if we had added further hard surfaces to the site. The project has allowed the theatre to better manage the area for deliveries and parking for performers, and will help sustain the future of the theatre itself through income generation.
Ground investigations on Sidmouth Beach and East Beach came to a close early in November, with a series of trial pits dug in the beaches, to improve our understanding of the underlying ground conditions and to help our consultants Royal Haskoning DHV design the new rock structures to go on East Beach as part of the proposed Sidmouth Beach Management Scheme. Digging the trial pits was not as straightforward a task as it might seem…as there was only a two hour window of opportunity to get the excavators safely on/off the beach and complete the works. Fortunately we had excellent weather and only lost one day due to adverse sea conditions.
This month (December), we’ve been preparing for Seaton’s Beach Management Plan public consultation.
Our consultants at CH2M in Exeter have been looking at the flood and erosion risk for the town, as well as the coastal processes and the way in which the beach responds to storms. This work forms the background from which we can consider options to reduce these future risks. We’ve had a brilliant response to this project’s consultations so far, so we’re looking forward to hearing everyone’s views on the short list of options now left for consideration.
We’ve also met this month with colleagues form the Lead Local Flood Authority team at Devon County Council, as well as West Country Rivers Trust and a company called JBA, whose team in Exeter has carried out flood modelling for us. This was to discuss different approaches to managing flood risk using land management and to look at how we can work with land owners to reduce the risk of flooding. For example, a farmer upstream of an area frequently affected by flooding, has been able to borrow equipment to improve the structure of the soil, which not only increases the productivity of these fields, but also helps the lands ability to absorb rainwater.
As you can see from the wide variety of work carried out by East Devon’s engineering team, engineering plays an important role in the world around you. If a career in engineering appeals, you may be interested to learn that 2018 is the Year of Engineering and there are lots of exciting engineering career opportunities for young people.