Seawall safety barrier is ‘act of bone-headed stupidity’

“It’s COMPLETE bureaucratic nonsense” – that’s the message from the Hillhead Residents Association, who have slammed a decision by Fareham Borough Council to install a 2ft-high railing on top of a new 150m-long promenade at Hillhead.

Following concerns raised by residents, Fareham Borough Council commissioned an independent review, which was undertaken by contractors AECOM in the summer to see whether a barrier rail was needed on top of the seawall.

The review found that the barrier should be built because of fears that people might fall off the top of the new wall.

Bill Hutchinson, chairman of the Hillhead Residents Association, said the decision was completely unnecessary.

He added: “While we welcome Fareham’s repair of 150 metres of the seawall at Hill Head, we reject completely the necessity of the 2ft-high railing they are intent on placing on top of it.

“At every stage, we have pointed out that neither the law, health and safety regulations nor building regulations require this railing.

“Yet Fareham and its subsidiary, the East Solent Coastal Partnership, insist on repeating that, because the seawall is a new construction, the railing is required.

“There is no problem to which this railing is the answer. To go ahead with installing it will be an act of bone-headed stupidity and a waste of public money.”

The new promenade has been developed as part of a £1m scheme by the council to boost the sea defences around Hill Head for the next 50 years to reduce the risk of flooding and prevent damage to the beach huts.

The project also saw the replacement of the beach groynes and 200 lorry-loads of shingle deposited on the beach.

Mr Hutchinson also pointed out that the 9ft drop listed in the report between the top of the new wall and the beach was wrong and that it was not a potential fall hazard, as was claimed in the report.

He added: “This section of beach has never, ever had a 9ft drop. At present, and, please note, after storm Brian, the drop is between 2 and 5ft – hardly dangerous.”

In response, Fareham Borough Council dismissed the claims and said in a statement: “A peer review of the approved design, confirmed that the seawall requires a stainless steel barrier rail for safety.

“As part of the completion works a temporary barrier will be put in place along the promenade edge and steps while off-site fabrication of the stainless steel barrier rail is undertaken.”

Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, added: “We have no responsibility to undertake this project but we believe that it’s a necessity for the area – if we do not act and do nothing then the current defences will fall into the sea.

“As for the railings, if there was any way we could have avoided putting up the railings then we would have done.

“However, we are acting on legal advice that says the railings must be put in place.”

The full project is expected to be completed by the end of this month.