In what’s understood to be an emergency measure, the Vale of Glamorgan Council has had to close the whole of Penarth Head Park – the park which occupies the highest section of the Penarth Head Cliff .
The cause appears to be ground movement brought about by the previous Labour administration’s heavily-criticised decision to build a massive 200 tonne “Viewing Platform” on the very edge of the 200 foot high cliff.
The Viewing Platform project was described as a Labour Party “Vanity Project” – supposedly to demonstrate just how clever, wise and far-sighted the Labour councillors were. Now, it seems, the chickens are coming home to roost .
It’s understood the that no geological surveys at all were carried out by the Labour Vale Council before it commissioned its own officers to design the massive gun-emplacement-like structure built only inches from the edge of the fragile cliff.
The timeline of the project is as follows:-
January 5th 2015: The Vale of Glamorgan Council (run in 2015 by the Labour Party) – announces it is to build a Viewing Platform at the highest level of Penarth Head – directly overlooking the Bristol Channel channel . It is to be created in the shape of the Wales Coast Path logo – an upside-down letter “P”. The cost is said to be £75,000 which is to come from the Vale Council’s own “capital resources” (i.e. council-tax payers’ money). There is no consultation whatsoever with members of the public or with council-tax-payers.
January 27th 2015: Contractors Pinit Construction begin work on the Viewing Platform. Deep trenches are dug into the vulnerable head of the cliff and reinforcing bars installed for the foundations . It’s stated that 25 cubic metres of readymix concrete will be poured into them. The foundations alone will weight more than 60 tonnes – but although this material is being laid within inches of the edge of the 200 foot cliff – no geological survey has been carried out to ascertain the effects on the delicate strata of the cliff itself.
April 2 2015 :It’s now revealed that the total weight of concrete that’s been poured into the foundations of the Viewing Platform isn’t “60 tonnes“ – it’s actually 84 tonnes – a third more than was originally specified.
May 7, 2015 : After taking four months to complete, – far longer than originally estimated – the Penarth Head Viewing Platform is opened to the public for the first time to universal condemnation . There is no opening ceremony . The total weight of the edifice is now estimated to be 92-tonnes. The people of Penarth condemn the building as an ugly eyesore. As a “viewing platform” it’s a disaster. Neither wheelchair users, nor children can see over the high ramparts. Recesses for public information plaques have been installed in the wrong places and the floor and surfaces of the building are still incomplete. When it rains, the floor floods.
May 16th 2015 . Well-known local architect Nigel Arnold – whose home is the nearest to the Viewing Platform wades into the controversy castigating the Labour Vale Council for its failure to give local residents any advance notice of its plans. He criticises the council for its adamant refusal to consult local people in Penarth or consider their views. He launches a leaflet campaign in which he publishes the private telephone number of the then council leader Neil Moore
May 29th 2015: A badly-rattled Labour council leader Neil Moore issues a public statement in response to what he calls ” a number of letters and social media comments about the new Penarth Head viewing platform”. Cllr Moore now describes the Viewing Platform as “part of a suite of works that are currently unfinished …. It is expected that landscaping, including a raised bed around the base of the platform, will soften and reduce the initial impact of the brick wall, a material chosen to reflect the ‘Blue-Grey Lias Limestone’ boundary wall of the park” .Cllr Moore says “The Viewing Platform has been built to be compliant with the Equalities Act 2010 and will allow wheelchair access with clear visibility over the boundary wall”.[PDN Note: This point is emphatically disputed by buggy and wheelchair users who can’t see a thing from the Viewing Platform because of the height of the walls ]. Nowhere in his open letter does Cllr Moore respond to the central point of the criticism – that there was no consultation with the people of Penarth.
September 16th 2015 : The deputy leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, Cllr Lis Burnet admits that the recesses in the Penarth Head Viewing Platform’s ramparts – which were meant to house visitor information – have been wrongly aligned. They point, not at points of interest across the channel, but directly at nearby homes. The council says further alternations are to be made to fix the problem. The costs are now estimated at over £100,000 (instead of the original £40,000) [Building work had taken 17 weeks rather than the “7 weeks “originally estimated]
November 14, 2016: Just 19 months after completion the first ominous cracks begin appear in the structure of the Penarth Head Viewing Platform. Long diagonal cracks appear in the North Eastern corner of the massive structure, indicating that the integrity of the building – poised at the very edge of Penarth Head Cliff – may have failed. A geologist tells PDN the indications are that the cliff beneath the “viewing platform” is unable to withstand the enormous weight – now estimated at 150 tonnes – and is gradually subsiding beneath the foundations .
November 13 2016 : What was – just months earlier – a vertical row of brand new iron railings, along the very edge of the cliff, has , in the space of 19 months, been pushed out of shape at an angle as the cliff-edge slowly subsides under the massive weight of the viewing platform. The cost of the project is now estimated to be £150,000 – and climbing.
November 22 2016 : The Vale of Glamorgan Council notice closes the Viewing Platform to the public whilst professional surveyors are called in to check how much the structure is moving and whether it’s safe.
November 22 2016 Whilst the survey work is in progress the viewing platform is closed to the public – but the park remains open . However new inner fence is installed in Penarth Head Park to keep the public back from the edge of the cliff .
November 22 2016 Alpine Land Surveyors install stainless steel pegs into the earth around the viewing platform which contain monitoring equipment linked to sixteen GPS satellites. These will indicate whenever ground movement of more than a millimetre has taken place.
February 4th 2017 the Viewing Platform is re-opened to the public. The still Labour-controlled Vale of Glamorgan Council claims the result of the survey work shows that the Viewing Platform is “safe for the public to enjoy” – but nevertheless is keeping in place the new rows of emergency post-and-wire fencing it had installed as an additional safety measure to keep people further back from the cliff edge than the original iron railings had.
July 26th 2017: Following the election of a Conservative administration in the Vale Council in May 2017, the new council calls in a team of experts to abseil part-way down the cliff-face of Penarth Head to try to ascertain just how much damage the former Labour-controlled Vale of Glamorgan Council has done to Penarth Head Park and the fragile cliff structure at the top of the cliff.
The experts working on the face of the cliff-top told local residents that they had been instructed to clear back parts of the cliff edge and face in order to find out “what was going on” – and whether it would be possible to reinforce the subsiding structure. Armed with chain saws they worked suspended by ropes on the face of Penarth Head – up to 15 feet below the cliff top with a 200 foot drop below them. They said that the expansion gaps and bricks to the front and on the ground had already been re-pointed and that these had definitely moved again since that repair work was carried out. One of the experts carrying out the examination said he was not sure anything could be done to remedy the situation and thought that at least part of the viewing platform would eventually “end up on the beach”. The cost of the structure and the subsequent repairs and surveys is said to be approaching £250,000.
June 8th 2018: Spectators pack the Penarth Head Viewing Platform to watch the start of the Volvo Ocean Races . More people are now standing on the Viewing Platform than ever before – unaware that huge cracks are opening up in the structure and the ground is literally shifting beneath their feet.
July 24 2018 : Local residents report seeing deep cracks and fissures developing in the ground around the Viewing Platform . Alpine surveyors return to the site to check it out.
July 24 2018: The surveyors note that the cracks in the structure of the Viewing Platform are now larger than ever. The Viewing Platform is unzipping itself under its own weight and pulling itself apart as the cliff edge underneath it is crushed downwards. They report back to the Vale of Glamorgan Council.
August 9th 2018: The size of the huge cracks developing in the brick built ramparts of the Viewing Platform make it obvious that the edifice is pulling itself apart – and could take part of the cliff with it . The picture taken on Thursday August 9th by John Matthews (above) may be the last ever to be taken of the Viewing Platform’s walls. The strain gauges glued to the walls by the surveyors to measure increases in the cracks have now failed and fallen off.
August 10th 2018 : The Vale of Glamorgan Council decides to close not just the Viewing Platform itself – but the entire Penarth Head Park. It gives no explanation for the closure and only invites the public to ring 01446700111 for more information.
When callers ring that number they are told that Penarth Head Park has had to be closed because of a “large crack” developing in the Viewing Platform. The park is to remain closed “until further notice” .
UPDATE : August 14 2018: The Penarth Head Park was re-opened today but the Viewing Platform itself is closed-off to the public with metal barriers placed across both entrances. There has been no further comment from the Vale of Glamorgan Council.