FPE Site Operations Restore Cromer Pier
Posted on February 2013
The problem with elderly iron and steel structures is just that; they are elderly and made from a material that needs regular maintenance. Sometimes though, regular maintenance isn’t enough.
Cromer Pier, an iconic structure on the north Norfolk coast and a regular destination for visitors since Victorian times, is over 100 years old and despite the regular maintenance carried out by its owners, North Norfolk District Council, it became apparent some years ago that significant repairs were needed if this famous old pier with its café, bar and thriving traditional ‘end of pier’ theatre was going to continue to be able to provide local people and holiday makers with such an important leisure facility.
Also, and perhaps even more importantly, Cromer’s lifeboat station is located at the pier head. There has been a lifeboat at Cromer for over two hundred years, its fame is thanks to Henry Blogg, the Coxswain of the Cromer lifeboat between 1909 and 1947 whose skill and bravery earned him the George Cross, British Empire Medal and a series of other awards including the Gold Medal of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution on three separate occasions. Cromer Pier had to remain viable but at a sensible cost.
In 2011, North Norfolk District Council started the process of finding a specialist contractor for what would become a project with a value of £1.2million. FPE Site Operations won the contract and started work in May, 2012.
By any standards, this is a major project. FPE Site Operations are replacing 152 bracings, 10 bull rails, 30 lattice girders and 36 wind ties – these link the lattice girders. Also, over one hundred deck beams will be replaced along with 670 square metres of decking – roughly half the deck area of the entire pier. The rain run-off board which runs around the perimeter of the theatre is also being renewed.
Below the water line, each of the piers piles has a protective concrete enclosure. The enclosure around twelve of the piles needs to be renewed. As the pier head is nearly always underwater, divers are using semi-circular casements and filling the casements with fast setting waterproof concrete to a height of 2.5 metres from the sea bed.
FPE Site Operations has developed quite a reputation for their ability to work on difficult to reach structures where mechanical access systems are not practical or economic. At Cromer Pier, the company has a team of seven working full time and four members of the team have IRATA Rope Access qualifications. Compared to scaffolding, rope access, together with the use of specially designed temporary structures, has saved around £200,000. Had mechanical systems – barges, cranes and access platforms – been considered, the cost may have been as high as £500,000 over the duration of the project. There are also environmental issues in that there would have been damage to the sea bed and sea life together with the negative visual impact that such machinery would have caused.
While the project continues the pier has remained open. In fact the sight of an engineer suspended on a rope has provided visitors with additional entertainment. The project will be completed by August 2013.