Risky business: On June 8th 2018 scores of spectators s crowded onto the Penarth Head Viewing platform to watch the Volvo Round the World Yacht Race – totally unaware of the risk that they were taking . Just days later the failing structure had to be closed- yet again – and has remained closed ever since.
The ill-fated 150 tonne Labour Party “vanity project”, the Penarth Head Viewing Platform – ill-advisedly built (without planning permission or any local consultation) inches away from the fragile edge of Penarth Head Cliff – is continuing to move and continuing the crack .
The admission has come from the now Conservative-run Vale of Glamorgan Council which is attempting to rectify the dangerous structure left behind by the former Labour administration.
Chained locked and barred. Public access to the Penarth Head Viewing platform is prohibited because it’s just too dangerous. – but it’s still easy to get onto the Viewing Platform
Surveyors back at the Penarth Head Park on September 11th 2018 monitoring the continued movement of the Viewing Platform – and the cliff edge . It was their second visit within four weeks.
July 24th 2018: The crack in the ramparts of the viewing platform became so large there was no doubt about the fact that the integrity of the structure had failed.
The viewing platform has been closed to the public since the latest bout of cracking the movement has been diagnosed.
The whole of the Penarth Head Park has already had safety railings installed to keep members of the public further back from the fragile cliff edge for fear of a cliff collapse
Local residents received a letter from the Vale Council of Glamorgan Council last night confirming that its initial attempts to stop the movement in the Penarth Head Viewing Platform structure hadn’t been effective. Cracking continued “to a greater extent than previously “
Last night the Vale of Glamorgan Council Council distributed a new letter to worried local residents who live near the structure and whose homes could conceivably be affected. PDN is reproducing this letter in full below as it has not yet been circulated to local media
Dear Sir or Madam
PENARTH HEAD VIEWING PLATFORM
Further to the Council’s previous letter providing an update on the viewing platform. write to provide you with more information and an update on progress.
In terms of history and context, you will be aware that works to construct the Platform were completed in May 2015 by a contractor working on behalf of the council .
In November 2016 reports were received of a crack having appeared in the structure.. On inspection, a large rakIng crack was observed. Such a crack is normally associated with differential settlement. To this end a monitoring regime was instigated to monitor both the structure and surrounding ground for any indication of movement. An inspection of the cliff face was undertaken at a later date to determine if there were any underlying issues that could have contributed to the propagation of the crack .
Following this initial monitoring and investigation it was noted that the movement joints in the wall had not been constructed as detailed in the original design, The contractor was invited to install these movement joints and, initially, appeared to have been successful .
Subsequent to this, there was no further cracking observed in the structure . It was agreed that regular monitoring of the structure would continue and during one of these monitoring inspections in July 2018 it was observed that the cracking had re-occurred and to a greater extent than previously .
Given the location of the platform and given the need to investigate further the decision was taken to close the platform in order to assess any movement that may be occurring in the viewing platform in order to assess any movement that may be re-occurring in the viewing platform and any surrounding ground movements.
In terms of the current position the following is a summary of the situation to date :-
The monitoring regime has not recorded any discernible movement in the ground or the viewing platform itself.
As a consequence the viewing platform could be reopened. That said, the inspections and assessment of the construction and the retrospective movement joints indicate that the retro-fitting of the movement joints has not been undertaken to a suitable standard to provide for the movement as required by the design.
It has also been discovered during these investigations that other movement joints within the structure were also not installed. The lack of these movement joints could account for the continued cracking of the structure.
As a consequence it was premature to re-open the platform until the works required to install these movement joints to a suitable design have been completed. To this end, discussions have continued with the contractor and works will now commence in the very near future to install the movement joints to the required standard and replace the damaged section of wall.
It is anticipated that contractors will start on site during the latter part of this week and into next week. The remedial works will take approximately 4 weeks to complete.
Finally, on completion, the platform will re-open and for completeness we will continue to monitor the platform using robust equipment with surveys to be undertaken in the short to medium term, both in relation to the platform itself and the adjoining ground.
I hope this provides you with more information and if you need further clarification do not hesitate to contact me.
Yours sincerely Huw Morgans Principal Engineer Environment “
PDN BACKGROUND ON PENARTH VIEWING PLATFORM
The Viewing Platform project was originally described as a Labour Party “Vanity Project” .
It’s understood that no geological surveys at all were carried out by the Labour Vale Council before it commissioned its 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: A 3D impression of the Viewing Platform as planned by Labour – without any consultation with the people of Penarth
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 : The deep footings or foundations of the massive structure before “60 tonnes” of concrete were poured in. Later it was admitted the actual amount of concrete used was at least a third more than that – A total of at least 84 tonnes. The total weight of the entire edifice would be well over 150 tonnes
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 (60 tonnes) of readymix concrete will be poured into them.
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 7th 2015 The public is given access to the Penarth Head Open Space and the new “Viewing Platform “ for the first time . There is no official opening ceremony. It’s reported that local Labour councillors are too embarrassed to organise any publicity for their creation. Local residents say Penarth Head Park has been “ruined” by what they call an “ugly monstrosity”
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 150 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.
The leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council Cllr Neil Moore (Labour Cadoc Ward) tried to defend the then Labour-run council’s disastrous decisions – claiming the Viewing Platform was “unfinished” and “complied” with the requirements of wheelchair users – – but the ramparts were so high wheelchair users couldn’t see over them.
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 Vale Council admits that the alignment of the information-plaque recesses on the ramparts of the Viewing Platform are all wrongly aligned. They invite visitors to gaze into the living rooms of nearby apartments instead of out to sea
September 16th 2015 : The deputy leader of the Vale of Glamorgan Council, Cllr Lis Burnett 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 13th 2016 : Daylight appears through a huge crack running from the top of the wall to the base of the Labour Party Vale Council “vanity project” – the Penarth Head Viewing Platform. It will get a lot worse that this.
November 14, 2016: Just 19 months after completion, the first ominous cracks begin to 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 : A few months earlier these railings had been vertical. Now they’re splayed outwards by ground movement
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 2018 : 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 : 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 The Penarth Head Park is partially fenced off for safety reasons
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 A large section of the Penarth Head Park itself was fenced off to the public – it maroons a doggie poop bin and two benches
November 22 2016 Yellow movement markers were attached to the structure and also driven into the ground on Penarth Head by the Alpine surveyors
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.
Special markers were fixed to the walls to establish the amount of movement
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 Abseiling experts about to climb over the edge of Penarth Head Cliff to examine the subsidence that’s causing the structural failure of the Labour Vale Council’s Penarth Head Viewing platform.
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 crowd onto the Penarth Head Viewing platform to watch the race from the edge of the cliff . It now appears they may have been risking their lives
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 :The hot dry summer creates further cracks in the ground around the viewing platform – but they’re masked by a layer of parched cut grass. The viewing platform remains open.
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 24th 2018: The widening crack in the ramparts of the viewing platform is now so large there’s no doubt about the fact that the integrity of the structure has failed.
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 9 2018 :The huge crack in ramparts of the Viewing Platform have got so big that a strain gauge installed at a position at the top right of the photo has failed and fallen off (Photo John Matthews)
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 entire Penarth Head Park is closed to the public (it was later re-opened but the Viewing Platform was cordoned 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” .
August 14 2018: The Penarth Head Park is re-opened but the Viewing Platform itself remained closed-off to the public with metal barriers placed across both entrances. Surveyors engaged by the Vale of Glamorgan Council visit the Penarth Head Viewing Platform again to check on continuing cracking of the structure. A number of concerned local residents gathered at Penarth Head Park whilst the surveyors were at work.
A surveyor on an earlier visit to the area erected a theodolite at the corner of Church Place and Clive Place
The platform is estimated to weigh over 150 tonnes and had more than 84 tonnes of liquid concrete poured into foundations excavated into the fragile cliff top – a third more than was originally quoted .
The viewing platform is just 8 feet from spiked railings along the cliff edge. The spikes originally had safety covers put on them to prevent injury to potential suicide jumpers
The structure of dense and heavy engineering brick was supposed to be built “8 feet” from the cliff edge – but was actually stands merely 12 inches from the top of the 200 foot precipice.
August 17th 2018: Surveyors make what is understood to be their third or fourth visit to the structure. They discover that some of the monitoring equipment and gauges which they had placed in position on their first visit had fallen off because of the continued movement of the massive ramparts of the viewing platform. The beach 200 feet directly below the Viewing Platform remains open to the public.
The Vale Council brings in substantial metal crush barriers to beef up the failed post-and-wire fencing on which some of the wire has given way
September 11th 2018: The auxiliary post-and wire safety fence is reinforced with metal crush barriers . However – despite the chains and padlocks on the entrance – it’s still easy to get onto the Viewing Platform by ducking under the side rails ….
Chained locked and barred. Public access to the Penarth Head Viewing platform is prohibited because it’s just too dangerous. – but it’s still easy to get onto the Viewing Platform
November 28th 2018 : The Vale of Glamorgan Council announces that “remedial work” is to be carried out by the original contractor under “instruction” from the council’s own engineers. No completion date is given and there is no reference to the cost of the project.
January 16th 2019 : The Vale Council informs local residents that “in July 2018 it was observed that the cracking had re-occurred and to a greater extent than previously” . The Council says it has now discovered other faults in the construction of the Viewing Platform. It says “the retro-fitting of the movement joints has not been undertaken to a suitable standard to provide for the movement as required by the design…. It has also been discovered during these investigations that other movement joints within the structure were also not installed. The lack of these movement joints could account for the continued cracking of the structure.”
The council also adds “Contractors will start on site during the latter part of this week and into next week. The remedial works will take approximately 4 weeks to complete. Finally, on completion, the platform will re-open and for completeness we will continue to monitor the platform using robust equipment with surveys to be undertaken in the short to medium term, both in relation to the platform itself and the adjoining ground.”