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SWWE AGM and the rebirth of the Weston-super-Mare's iconic Grand Pier

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Posted by APM on 19th Jul 2010

In April 2010, Kerry Michael, Anthony Smith and Andy McGoldrick presented to the South Wales and West of England branch about the rebirth ofWeston-super-Mare's iconic Grand Pier.

Branch chair, Martin Gosden ran a brisk AGM with the support of Branch Treasurer, Peter Wakeling. Following a review of the year, a look ahead and a review of the finances, the committee was elected.

Martin then introduced Kerry Michael the pier owner and Andy McGoldrick, of John Sisk and Son, the building contractors, to discuss the challenges of the project from a client and contractors perspective.

Kerry outlined the history of the Grand Pier, which was built in 1904, rebuilt after a fire in 1933, and suffered another fire on 28 July 2008 after justone weekend of trading after Kerrys family had bought the pier. The fire created global interest in the loss of this well loved West Country icon with messages of support, from as far as Sydney to Kazakhstan. Following the fire, Kerrys first step was to set a target of reopening in July 2010, less than 2 years after the fire. Even he felt that reopening in less than a year was a bit ambitious.

A competition was run to select an architect, which included a public display to seek the important local view. Bristol based Angus Meeks design was selected, combining a modern design with echoes back to the previous pier, with two towers.

Kerry recognised that stakeholder management was key, especially the Local Authority. They were engaged early and a task force set up including various government agencies. Timescales were critical, and unfortunately Kerry found that they were unable to meet deadlines set for responses, and the group eventually disbanded. To keep to schedule, Kerry also had to resort to managing the planning department very publicly in the local press.

Setting the requirement involved a lot of research for ideas around the world, and Kerry ensured the team of the project managers, designers and constructors were fully involved. He was determined to offer far more than before, with a venue offering inside theme park rides, food, drink, weddings, conferences and mass entertainment. Flexibility was the key word, to be able to alter the space between summer and winter to maximise business opportunities

To save time in the building tender process, Kerry agreed T&Cs with each tenderer before final selection. Unfortunately, Kerry didn't feel comfortable in the final negotiations with the selected contractor and pulled the plug. John Sisk, were then asked back. This caused a one month delay, with practical completion and handover now 25 June and full opening in early July.

Kerry concluded that it has been exciting, stressful; with a lot of debate and challenge, but that he has enjoyed the process.

Andys presentation was fascinating, illustrated by numerous photographs from every stage of the build. The challenges were quite considerable, with a site mile out at sea set in 27 m of mud, and with the Local Authority digging up the whole of the sea front to improve the flood defences. Logistically, the main delivery site was near the station, a compound was built on the beach, with offices on stilts above the tide. Special trailers had to be designed to move material to the end of the pier up the existing 100 year old structure which had a maximum SWL of 2.5 tonnes. 1000 tonnes of steel was erected by 3 cranes, an 80T, 220T and 500T which were mounted on barges which floated for 2 hours per day, and had to deal with a 20 m tidal range. To improve crane availability the novel use of a jack-up was used, with special pads to distribute the load on the mud. A sand ramp was built to get the crane on it over one night. The existing steels were over 100 years old and could not take the weight of the new structure. New 27 metre piles were installed.

To mitigate against the weather, 7 day working was employed from the start, but this did not account for the worst winter weather for decades. The cranes could not work for 3 weeks. Work did not stop, but it did cause a 5 week extension, which is being managed by working nights. The pier was due to be handed over to Kerrys team on 25 June, and will need no maintenance for 25 years thanks to the high tech paint system used.

Andy concluded that it has been very challenging, but with good team work, including Kerry as client, with whom they are still talking!, it will be delivered on time and will provide an enduring Icon in W-s-M for many years in the future.

Slides from Andy McGoldrick's and Martin Gosden's presentationsare available to download below.

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