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Successful tender allows scope of works to Fermain military defence wall to be investigated

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Tuesday 27 April 2021

The Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure is pleased to announce that the next steps for progressing the stabilisation of the soft cliff and repair of the military defence wall at Fermain is underway following a successful tender appointment by the Coastal Infrastructure Team.

The appointed local consultant has begun a complete review of options for the re-profiling of the cliff and repair of the wall, which will culminate in a recommendation for a way forward, including requirements for further site investigation works.

No bids were received when the tender for design assistance was originally issued. The Coastal Infrastructure Team subsequently worked with those who had expressed initial interest in the project to understand how the works could be re-tendered successfully. This proactive approach has proved effective as the team were able to appoint a local civil and structural engineering consultant earlier this month after going out to tender once more.

The work required at Fermain is much larger in scope than a standard wall repair due to the need for both the re-profiling of the cliff (the major component of the project) and repair of the wall. It is also more challenging because of its location and the limitations that imposes upon access and equipment.

Work to stabilise the cliff and repair the damaged wall has been frustratingly slow to progress because it cannot be categorised as a true sea defence. The wall at Fermain was built not as a sea wall but as a military defence against the threat of a French invasion, and the stability of the cliff is threatened more by the rain and groundwater seeping through the soft cliff than by the sea.

Because many stretches of our coastline require defending but financial resources are limited, work must be prioritised according to the scale and impact of the potential damage that would result if a defence were to fail. Sea walls that protect key infrastructure such as roads, cables, sewers, businesses and homes have to be prioritised, so our eastern seaboard and west coast are usually the highest priorities.

Despite its aesthetic, cultural and historic value, it has been difficult to push the work required at Fermain to the front of the queue for funding as it does not protect key infrastructure and so does not tend to score highly in any capital prioritisation process, but the Committee for the Environment & Infrastructure recognise its societal importance and is committed to its repair.

The assessment now taking place will provide both a preferred option for delivery and inform the scope of the investigatory works required in order to develop the preferred option for solution into a full detailed design. That detailed design will then be the next step which will require a separate formal tendering process.

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