On May 20, I attended a North Tyneside Council planning committee meeting at which the sole subject was the proposal for demolishing most of the central (lower) promenade.
A planning manager present read a summary of the proposal. This was to demolish the structure with the 30-plus units and replace it with a 30-degree slope covered with vegetation running from the upper promenade level to the top of a new wall. She repeated that the central promenade was in a ‘high-risk mining area’.
This risk had been referred to in a number of documents listed in the planning application submitted in February.
One of the documents added later to this list was a report on the various options prepared by Scott-Wilson in 2011, which came up with the recommendation for the so-called grassy bank solution.
It was this option that was submitted for an environmental impact assessment in 2012.
The Scott-Wilson report provided costs for all the options discussed, each with cost estimates of £6million and above.
A large proportion of the costs were needed to reduce the risk of subsidence due to ironstone and coal mine workings in the vicinity.
These could result in the collapse of the central promenade structure if not attended to by either filling voids with grout, or by putting in piles to increase the strength of the foundations of any new or modified structure.
As recently as April 14, a report on the mining risk was authorised for release by the Coal Authority after investigations using boreholes concluded that there were no ironstone mines in the immediate area, and the risk from coal mines was reduced to low. This must be the explanation as to why the cost for the grassy slope proposal has approximately halved, with no need for grouting or pile-driving.
It transpired that the grassy bank option is not the one to be pursued. That option has a less steep slope and requires a new, large concrete wall to be built on the seaward side of the existing concrete and masonry walls that will be left in place.
This defies the advice in the Scott–Wilson report that there should be no encroachment on the beach, a feature not taken into account in the environment impact assessment.
I am sceptical about the estimated costs quoted for the new design, for which only a single lump sum has been given.
It is not possible to make a reliable estimate without breaking the work down into components, as was done for all the options covered by the Scott-Wilson report.
It remains a mystery to me and many others as to why the estimates for the options keeping the whole of the lower promenade appear to have increased dramatically over those in the 2011 report.
Easily-accessible drawings for the various options recorded in the 2011 Scott-Wilson report, and the preferred 30 degree grassy slope design chosen can be accessed at www.rlsnortheast.co.uk/CentralProm/thumb.html
Robin and Alla Smith