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Upfront collaboration is key to Cleveleys’ success

Coastal town’s flood defence was finished 72 weeks ahead of the original schedule

ProjectCleveleys Coast Protection Phases 2 and 3
ClientWyre Borough Council
Principal designerFaber Maunsell
Designers Fergusson McIlveen and Birse Technical
ContractorBirse Coastal
Piling contractorCommercial Marine and Piling
Concrete supplierSLP Precast
Value £19.4 million

The coastal town of Cleveleys may be in the shadow of neighbour Blackpool but it now has its own sparkling flood defence and promenade to shout about.

Several defences were built in the town from the 19th century onwards. Until earlier this year, the original 1928 front wall served as a flood defence – a cobbled revetment with a Tarmac top.

“It was the bees’ knees of its day, but it was run down, shabby and it used to flood,” says Carl Green, principal engineer at client Wyre Borough Council.

The worst floods happened in 1977, affecting 1,800 homes, so an updated defence was needed. A rear sea wall at the back of the promenade was built in 1982 but the area still flooded annually.

Space strategy

The council produced its Flood and Coastal Defence Strategy Plan in 2004. It decided that a new form of protection, as well as a public space, was needed.

The scheme is the client’s largest civil engineering project. The council decided to procure the scheme using a quality assessment process and it was formally partnered, with contractor Birse Coastal seconded to its offices for eight months.

Andrew Mason, project manager at Birse, says: “In terms of collaboration, it was really upfront and all done in advance and that has paid dividends.

It was all vetted for price and buildability. That sounds very simple but you’d be surprised by how many projects don’t do this,” he adds.

“We wanted the right partners on quality. It has been the driver from the very start of the process,” Mr Green says. “The partner was procured 100 per cent on quality for the early contractor involvement stage.”

Birse and Wyre Council then worked together to build up a target cost, which was audited by consultant Gardiner and Theobald.

It was important that the design helped to regenerate the area and attract people to it. Wyre Borough Council paid five architecture firms to design a scheme that was then put to the public vote and Faber Maunsell was the winner.

“Faber Maunsell stood out by far, it was a free flowing and far superior layout, and it was a very distinguishable design and gave the community large open spaces,” Mr Mason says.

Before work could begin, various types of concrete were tested to see whether they could withstand the exposed conditions and pebbly beaches of the area.

Concrete supplier SLP Precast produced concrete with varying degrees of micra-silica and the winner, while expensive, was the only one that could stand the conditions.

“It was a micra-silica-based concrete which was mixed and optimised in terms of particle packing. That was pioneering in itself,” says Mr Mason.

Moulds were standardised and Birse made sure that there were as few as possible so the units could be made quickly in a purpose-built facility five miles from site.

Using precast concrete gives a very sharply defined product, says Mr Mason. “The way you install them is much less risky than in situ, you put them in like Lego so it’s a very robust battleship design,” he adds.

Aesthetics were also important with the client choosing a terracotta-coloured finish to the promenade, but changing this to Portland white, which blended in with the beach.

“It’s a human scale rather than being quite dominating. It’s soft yet robust. It fits together and flows,” says Mr Green.

Work started on site in 2005 and finished this March – 72 weeks ahead of the original schedule.

“Early contractor involvement meant we finished quickly. We worked to the contractor’s ability rather than what the designer thought the timescale should be,” Mr Green says.

This was in spite of discovering a 200 m river channel which was filled with soggy silt where the wave build-outs were being created.

Column solution

“The normal solution would be to use concrete piles but they were too expensive,” says Mr Green.

“We brought on a groundworks specialist and used stone columns, which I don’t think has been done on the coast before. It meant that the settlement could occur within the timescale of the programme.”

Mr Mason credits team communications for the success of the project, especially when the river channel problem came up. He says: “If there was a problem, there was no confrontation.

We had a team and a project board which discussed any issues and gave clear direction and fed back to the team. It’s all about the people.”

The project has been shortlisted for a British Construction Industry Award. Winners will be announced on 8 October. To find out more go to www.bciawards.org.uk

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