Engineers were today accused of bungling Blackpool’s massive sea wall project after yet more evidence emerged of its apparent deterioration.
The £27.1m sea defence scheme at Anchorsholme was only unveiled to the public in October last year.
But fresh concerns have been raised over whether the huge project has been botched – with gaps seemingly forming between concrete revetments, water damage and panels badly eroding.
Senior council directors have met with engineers Balfour Beatty to find out why the problems are continuing, four years since the issues were first raised.
The project, which saw around 1km of sea wall replaced, was funded by the Environment Agency using government cash, which is managed by Blackpool Council.
A spokesman for Balfour Beatty said in a statement: “We are aware of water leaking from a joint between concrete revetment units, and some surface damage to revetment units, toward the northern end of the Anchorsholme flood defence.
“Investigations are currently underway and we will continue to closely monitor the revetment to ensure the sea defences remain safe and secure.”
Coun Fred Jackson, Cabinet Member for Environmental Services and Highways, said: “Balfour Beatty is our appointed contractor for design and build and any repair solutions, work and related costs remain their responsibility.
“The costs of repairing any defects are the responsibility of Balfour Beatty.
“With any project of this size there can be additional work required to rectify any issues.
“The council has always been aware that surveys are being carried out that help inform appropriate repair solutions.
“Ongoing meetings are taking place with Balfour Beatty in order to agree the repair works programme.
“Despite the work that may be required it is important that we must not lose sight of the huge benefits that the sea wall is providing.
“This significant project is reducing the flood risk to 4,800 properties and businesses in Blackpool. It also safeguards the tramway, road and major pumping station infrastructure on the northern seafront.
“The long-term benefits accruing from this cannot be underestimated when looking at the project overall.”
Residents and councillors spoke out as far back as December 2014 after stone foundations and a concrete base crumbled after a storm.
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard met contractors to discuss claims that part of the wall was ‘unsafe’ in February 2015, while Balfour Beatty used a radar machine to scan the wall after pictures were posted to Facebook.
Tony Williams, Conservative leader on Blackpool Council, said: “Coun Jackson is taking the usual political safe line the simple truth is both Anchorsholme councillors and local residents have been warning the council and Coun Jackson the sea defence was both faulty and failing.
“Anyone visiting the far end of the work can clearly see late patches of erosion, slabs not fitting correctly and allowing water to collect underneath the structure which will eventually fail.
“Gaps and cracks are appearing and the whole area is threatened.
“Both Coun Jackson and the council have denied there are any problems when quite clearly there are.
“In conversations with senior officers I have been informed that a recent camera survey has identified problems at further points along these works some of which have not been reported to the council by Balfour Beatty.
“Under the agreement with the council it was established that if it was the design that has caused these serious faults then it is the council which has to pay to make repairs.
“If it’s construction problems then it’s up to Balfour Beatty to foot the bill.
“The slabs cost £15,000 each and have to be shipped from Ireland.
“But if they just replace and undertake the repairs as per the existing construction then it would just fail again.
“This is a very serious situation and I am appalled that Coun Jackson’s response to The Gazette is both condescending and contains very little substance or assurance to residents living near the sea who are now once more threatened with flooding as the defences continue to erode.
“Let’s hope this winter is a mild one as storms and high tides will add further to the existing problems and add even more to the risk of flooding and the eventual cost.”
Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said:“I am concerned to hear there are continued problems with the new sea defences at Anchorsholme.
“Significant amounts of public money went into this scheme and I am worried it appears to deteriorating so soon after work was completed.
“It is important to establish what has gone wrong and for any remedial action to be completed as soon as possible.
“The most important thing is to ensure homes and businesses continue to be protected from flooding and with the autumn approaching this is clearly a matter of urgency.
“Whatever has led to this damage, the people of Blackpool should not be left at increased risk or out of pocket as a result.
“It is important we understand what has occurred and I will now be calling on the Department for Environnment, Food and Rural Affairs to independently investigate this issue.”