Update memo on Sutton Harbour Lock Gates Project

The following was issued to Representative Working Groups on Friday November 25th 2022.

This memo is to provide an update on the communication and planning process for the essential maintenance and repair works, which will be carried out by the Environment Agency, to replace the cills to Sutton Harbour lock gates.

The first meetings of the two stakeholder consultative groups – representing the fishing industry and berth holders – has provided valuable input into the process. As a result, considerable changes are being proposed in the timing and methodology of the works to attempt to minimise disruption for all harbour users.

Below is an outline of the current proposal for the works for your consideration and comment, together with a proposed format and date for the next meeting of the consultative groups, for discussion of the proposals. As you will recall, the initial plan was to carry out the work as a six-month block, with the works to outer and inner sets of lock gates following on from each other, commencing September 2022. However, following feedback and discussions with stakeholders, the clear view emerged that the least disruptive approach was to split the works into two tranches.

The latest proposals are outlined below but in summary they suggest doing the first lock gate in the autumn of 2023 (generally speaking primarily in September and October with some in November), and the second in the spring of 2024 (generally speaking primarily in March and April with some in February). The rationale behind this approach is to minimise impact on the important winter fishing season for the fleet, and minimise the impact on the leisure season for berth-holders.

There is, however, some inevitable encroachment on both seasons for both sets of harbour users. Accordingly, it is suggested that the next working group meeting be a joint meeting between the fishing and berth holder groups, so that views can be shared directly with the intention of determining the start dates for the works of each of the tranches.

Project revision and analysis

Since the last meetings with each of the two representative working groups, the Environment Agency and Sutton Harbour Group have been involved in a detailed analysis of comments received, the options for reflecting these approaches/comments in the project planning, and modelling a series of revised schedules and programmes for the works. This analysis has included:
o Potential impact of the works on different stakeholder groups
o Timing of the start of the works
o Length of the works
o Possibility of splitting the works
o Availability of alternative landing/berthing arrangements during the conduct of the works

We have undertaken an analysis of ways in which the schedule can be speeded up – including:
o Analysis of those works that can be undertaken as “preliminary works” until the “major works” commence, with lesser overall impacts
o Review of the process of works themselves
o Adding shifts of divers and extending the work day (looking at a 10 hour schedule, 12 hour schedule, and 24 hour schedule)

We have also acted on the suggestion of appointing an external consultant regarding the alternative landing/ berthing arrangements and have interviewed potential candidates to fulfil this role, and confirm that we have in fact engaged with a consultant, being Mr. Charles Blyth.

Current revised proposals

Having accepted the feedback from both representative groups that splitting the works has the potential to minimise disruption, a considerable focus has been on trying to identify the best timing for the project that minimises the impact on all harbour users.

There is acknowledgement from all stakeholders that the works are essential and it is clear that some level of disruption will be inevitable. Therefore, our approach has been to attempt to avoid works during the peak periods for each group and concentrate on the “shoulder periods” between seasons where both groups may suffer some disruption but where the overall impact might be minimised.

The current suggestion based on these considerations of alternatives for the works is as follows:

  1. The works be conducted in two tranches, with a gap in between. Currently each tranche is scheduled to last up to 10 weeks
  2. A suggested revised schedule of starting works in Spring 2023 has been postponed, taking into account:
    a. The limited amount of time remaining
    b. The requirements to mobilise contractors
    c. The current continuing search and consideration of alternative berthing/landing arrangements
    d. The need to work with the external consultant regarding alternative berthing and landing arrangements
  3. With all this in mind, the latest suggestion is that the first tranche of works starts in September 2023 (with the exact start date to be set) and to take place during
    September/October, currently ending in the first week or so of November (with the intention to try and minimise and hopefully eliminate spill-over into November).
  4. The second tranche is proposed to commence in the second half of February 2024, and to take place into March and April (with the exact start (and therefore end) date to be set).
  5. Calendar considerations will also be taken into account in the determination of the final actual work schedule, as noted in the previous round of consultations.

A packet of information of the schedule and graphical summary of the disruption / dates will be issued next week (all dates are purely indicative at this point until final commencement dates are set arising from the consultation meeting to be convened).

Surveys and Interim Works

There is both a need and opportunity to perform some interim works over the coming months to survey the state of the cills to ensure their integrity until the commencement of the major refurbishment works. This provides an opportunity to implement some early parts of the major works to help ensure the ability of the contractors to keep to the proposed schedules.

These interim works have been scheduled in sets of 3 days over the coming months. The first set has been announced for November 29th, 30th December 1st. The work schedule for these days is from 07:30 – 17:00.

Accordingly, the opening times of the gates are therefore:
• Before 07:30 normal gate operations
• 07:30 – 11:00 – gates are closed
• 11:00 – 11:30 – gates are open
• 11:30 – 14:00 – gates are closed
• 14:00 – 14:30 – gates are open
• 14:30 – 17:00 – gates are closed
• 17:00 – 07:30 the next morning – normal gate operations

The works in the subsequent months are being suggested for the following weeks:
• w/c December 12th
• w/c January 9th
• w/c February 6th
• w/c February 27th

There is the opportunity to set the days of these works on the possible following sets of days:

  1. Monday / Tuesday/ Wednesday
  2. Tuesday/ Wednesday/ Thursday
  3. Wednesday / Thursday / Friday

A survey has been created to canvass the communities at large as to the preferable set of days on which to conduct these works (as above). The survey is accessible via the following link https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/Lockworksurvey and will be available until November 30th 2022 for people to register their preference.

Next working group meeting/s

It is proposed that the next working group meeting be a joint meeting of the berth holders and fishing industry representative groups. The aim would be to review the latest proposals, which have been arrived at having carefully considered feedback from all sides, and taking into account the constraints of carrying out such a major scheme.

Within this proposed framework, there are options around start dates, which we would welcome the opportunity to discuss in a forum in which with all harbour users are represented, can share with each other their views and, in collaboration with the project partners, identify a way forward to schedule the works.

Given the nature and disparity of interests and views, on the matter at hand, we are suggesting that Mr. Tim Jones (Chairman Southwest Business Council) will be in attendance and act to help facilitate the discussion.

We propose December 12th as the date for the next meeting of the representatives of both working groups of harbour users, to take place in the conference room at the National Marine Aquarium at 18:00. For those unable to attend in person, there will be the option to join the meeting remotely.

Details will be circulated in due course. Alternatively, questions, comments and feedback can be submitted using the contact details listed on this project website: https://lockgates.info/