Anyone who read our previous blogs on the Weymouth Harbour wall repairs will assume the works finished on 23rd December last year. However, unforeseen problems in the pile driving phase caused delays. These prevented some overlapping tasks, which may now stretch until mid February. It is helpful to compare pile driving to archeology – one never really know what’s down there!

Infilling waling beam trench and gap-filling between the piles

We started writing these particular blogs because we feel repair and strengthening of areas of the Harbour are essential works. The aim is to maintain the beauty and functions of our working Harbour, for years to come. Knights Brown Construction and Dorset Council have been informing local businesses but sometimes late. In any event, the contractors and local authority have been MUCH more informative and responsive than during the ill-fated repairs to the old Condor Ferries Berth 3 back in 2012/3.

Shuttering for the concrete capping (8th January)

At the time of writing (11th January), remaining works included the last capping beam concrete pour and replacing the Ferry Steps. Then there are – levelling, making good, reinstating safety railings, resurfacing and clearing the site. We hope to add a few photos in later updates to this post during these concluding works, as they arise. We may be able to add a short video clip of the finished result. Then we shall be back to blogs about visiting luxury superyachts, Naval vessels, Tall Ships and Harbourside events, such as the Seafood Festival.

Updates (after 11th January)

Update on 15th January: Yesterday’s storm (Brendan) slowed work on the site but more backfilling and welder-cutting for pipe egress was attempted. The crane swayed alarmingly in the wind and work stopped in the afternoon. (No pictures – far too wet and windy!)

31st January 2020 – The large crane (Old Squeaky) left (using another box-crane) and disappeared from site around 11:30 a.m. It transpires, the crane may not have been causing TV interference after all. At least we can now investigate other possible causes, having eliminated the most obvious suspect.

Storm Ciara rattling and tipping over barriers around the site – courtesy of Roundhouse Hotel, Weymouth
One of 15 double-passes by streetsweeper 13th February – road still a mud bath when Storm Dennis hit us – courtesy of Roundhouse Hotel, Weymouth

Storm Ciara caused quite a stir last weekend (8th/9th/10th February,. There were gusts of wind up to 60mph and lots of rain. Some site barriers toppled in places and crashed against Roundhouse walls. The worst of the weather was too rough for filming due to even worse wind and rain later, naturally. (Film clips courtesy of Roundhouse Hotel Weymouth).

Week ending 14th February

Removing barriers and re-opening the road to traffic – 14th February

There remain a few more finishing jobs and complete site clearance takes place next week. Safety railings will come later (etc). However, the repairs are essentially complete and are looking quite tidy. (Footnote, in September 2020, these railings were damaged by vandals!)

Update – 31st May 2020

General view of the repaired area
General view of the repaired area

We promised a few photos of the finished Harbour Wall repair area. We had to wait for the Covid-19 restrictions to permit the works. But here it is and very good it looks too. The final effect is very smart and makes for an attractive feature for residents and visitors alike.

The new Ferry Steps
The new Ferry Steps
The seating area is part of the new amenity
The seating area is part of the new amenity
View from the benches towards Weymouth Inner Harbour
View from the benches towards Weymouth Inner Harbour

And now – the not so good bit –

Way back in October 2018, Council announced these works and promised to compensate affected guesthouses for loss of income. Several more meetings took place during 2019 and negotiators were appointed, BOTH BY COUNCIL (?) for both sides. Council to pay BOTH negotiators.

Estate agent as negotiator – really?

It turned out, the Council negotiator against the hoteliers was actually an estate agent, from Symonds and Sampson. (Why not the very long-established property services or assets and infrastructure teams already working at Council, for decades? Why not solicitors? What would estate agents have to offer, really? The assets and property section of Dorset Council had a total expenditure budget over £13million, so why spend another £4,848 externally? It’s not like they were short-staffed or under-funded – projected nett budget over £5million!)

Unreasonable delays and argument

The estate agent appeared to be most tenacious in dragging out proceedings beyond all concept of reasonableness, but he was probably just following Council instructions. On the other hand, the hoteliers’ negotiator (a2a Consulting Ltd) appeared no speedier. Typically questions were not asked till weeks after submission and not answered, usually with deflection, several more weeks later still. It is likely both negotiator teams earned many £1000’s in time spent on arriving at a final offer which satisfies nobody and angers most of us. Their fees come from the Public Purse, of course. (£4,848 for Symonds and Sampson alone).

Shortage of facts

As of 9th September, enquiries have remain unanswered, regarding the financial arrangements or selection process for these negotiators, nor any actual benefit derived (if any).

From the little we know emerging from behind the strict veil of secrecy (public works affecting numerous businesses owned by Council !) it seems the individual guesthouses will receive very different sums in compensation, some may receive nothing and in the worst cases, their business costs will be DEDUCTED from their compensation – in effect, they are paying twice over for running costs.

Seemingly unfair payouts still awaited

A couple of guesthouses received interim payments in February, but in the form of rent refunds (maybe there is a legal reason for that obfuscation). And the final compensation has STILL not been paid (as of 9th September 2020). For orientation, compensation was promised October 2018, works started 29th September 2019, finished late on 13th February 2020 – so there seems little if any excuse for a further 7 months of fruitless wrangling over minute details, which were in the end largely discarded by Council anyway.

Council’s leaden hand strikes again!

In typical fashion, Council has taken a brave and high quality project and turned it into argument and poison, a nightmare to everyone concerned. A quick payout back in, say, March, even at reduced amounts, could have avoided all this negativity but Council thrives on negativity, doesn’t it!

Sorry there is no happy ending to this post.