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Letters: At Seaton it’s now a question of: ‘For whom the till tolls?’

At Seaton it’s now a question of: ‘For whom the till tolls?


‘The construction of the new Tesco store in Seaton and the associated landfill operation using sea dredged aggregates (NCE 15 December) is indeed an impressive operation. The new store is a big improvement on existing Tesco supermarkets.

However, the site was not derelict as reported, just not used. It was previously occupied by the first holiday camp ever to be built in Britain - Warners. The land was bought by Tesco four years ago when the camp had an occupancy rate of some 90% for the 11 months of each year it was open.

Tesco immediately closed down the camp and it stood unused until demolished in 2010. Seaton lost not only its one swimming pool but more importantly, the town and its traders have lost a lot of visitors on whom the town depended on its survival. Seaton has been dying ever since.

It is grossly untrue to report that the town welcomed Tesco and Tesco will be well aware of that fact from letters and reports in the local press. From the outset, they have set out to woo customers away from local shops.

It is also misleading to quote that Tesco was “concerned about noise” made by pumping sand and gravel along the above ground pipeline. It was only when the local authority ordered a cessation of pumping, because permitted noise levels were being exceeded, did the contractor switch to sand only aggregate.

This part of East Devon has a surfeit of Tesco stores at Axminster, Honiton, Chard and an outlet in Lyme Regis. It has never been fully explained why planning permission was given just two weeks before new rules came into force restricting one supermarket chain being dominant in any area.

  • John Potter (F), Axmouth, Devon,

Commitment is key for HS2

The viewpoint expressed by Nelson Ogunshakin (NCE last week), defines his support for High Speed 2 (HS2), as a project which offers benefits. It also presents a challenge for civil engineers during this century.

There has been no formal analysis, nor what should be called an “appreciation of the situation”, in which factors which affect the object or objects, plus the alternative courses of action available and the conclusions reached, would be defined and published.

This should be included as a normal requirement in the preparation of any civil engineering report.

But the first of the recommendations by the House of Commons Transport Select Committee was: “The government must firmly commit to the Y Network before seeking parliamentary approval for HS2.”

It seems needless to point out that the technology for HS2 cannot easily be applied as part of a future network, whereby existing railway lines might be adapted to bring high speed trains to other destinations. Therefore the system which is currently being promoted is an alternative, to be kept completely separate from the railway network which exists.

  • Brian Warburton (F),

Heading for extinction?

The Canadians are considering whether to ditch the beaver as their national symbol in favour
of the polar bear. For a nation that does not seem to get too excited by most things, it has suddenly become gripped by the desire to have a more impressive animal to represent its national aspirations.
Is it time for the ICE to choose another partner for the stork?

  • Peter Mason,

Foundation questions

The recent letters to the editor regarding the Taj Mahal (NCE 10 November 2011) cannot go without further comment.

There is an excellent report on factual structural conditions including borehole data available at the ICE library. The entire chapter VI of Taj Mahal and It’s Conservation by D Dayalan (Abhishek Prakashan 2009) tells the story of careful record keeping and studies over a long period of time.

Page 86 of this useful book gives a simplified cross-section of the 11.3m thick rubble masonry raft foundation and subsoil conditions down to sandstone bed rock.

University of Roorkee had excavated six boreholes down to a depth of 40m and another borehole excavated by the Central Building Research Institute was taken down to 105m in around 1990. There is a pretty fair account of geotechnical analysis taking note of various earthquakes and long term assessments of settlements.

In the light of these it is a mystery where mahogany timber posts or piles, as reported, might be.

  • Sydney Xavier (M Ret)

Taxing question

Under present plans the High Speed 2 (HS2) link won’t get within 300km of Scotland, where, as your editorial points out, our minds are more taxed by Scottish independence issues.

Speaking of taxes, would it be churlish to point out that my income tax goes to the UK Treasury, thereby subsidising the grand English projects such as HS2 and London’s Crossrail? And don’t get me started on the eastLondon Olympics.

  • Bob Pritchard (M ret), Edinburgh,

Teminological inexactitude

Having worked for the contractor on the Hammersmith Flyover, supervising the placing of the precast units in the superstructure and the installation and tensioning of the cables, I was dismayed to read, in your 5 January issue, about the serious corrosion problems.

It is sad that this fine, innovative structure - a tribute to Maunsell’s design - should be so afflicted.

But my main reason for writing is to point out the loose terminology in the report.

Prestressing is essentially the imparting of bending stresses to a structure such as will counter the stresses induced by imposed loading. There are two main methods: pretensioning, as used in long line production of straight precast units (such as lintols)where the wires or cables are tensioned before concrete is cast around them, and then cut when the concrete has matured; and post-tensioning, as in the Hammersmith Flyover, where cables were tensioned after maturing of the concrete.

In the second paragraph you refer to “prestressed reinforcing tendons” and in the third to “prestressed steel tendons”. In fact it is the concrete, not the tendons, which is prestressed. And the tendons are not “reinforcing” in the usual sense.

  • PJ Claridge (F),

Realistic assumption

I sympathise with Derek Godfrey’s call to maximise British contractors’ participation in constructing the Thames Tunnel (NCE 12 January 2011).

We share his aspiration and are working with Crossrail and others to improve the UK’s engineering skills base.

But we have to deal with the world as it is.

Given the sheer scale of the project, the involvement of international players, hopefully in partnership with home-grown talent, is all but inevitable.

It’s been a feature of all major infrastructure projects of recent years.

Ofwat will rightly closely scrutinise our procurement process to ensure best value for money for our customers.

We have to consider how we ensure a suitable level of competition, so that we deliver this vital project in the most cost effective manner.

  • Phil Stride, head of London Tideway Tunnels, Thames Water,

Could Felixstowe beach recharge have been safer?


The South West Branch of the ICE has sent a helpful email with details of the next Plymouth Club meeting on 7 February, where a paper will be given on “Managing Coastal Erosion Risk”.

My much appreciated weekly copy of NCE also arrived today and in the light of the Plymouth meeting, the article on page 16 dealing with the Felixstowe coastal defence project seems particularly well timed for those, like myself, with an interest in the subject.

But I am alarmed by the health and safety aspects of the task shown in the main photograph. Surely a safer method could have been used to position the discharge end of the massive recharge pipeline?

Two hydraulic back-acters are apparently attempting to move the pipeline by means of wire hawsers with end shackles or loops placed loosely over teeth on the digger buckets - a lax and clearly unsafe method.

This is bad enough, but hydraulic excavators are not intended to generate near-horizontal pulling loads applied, via their buckets, at right-angles to their centrelines by rotation of the machine body, which can seriously affect stability.

I wonder what the risk assessment had to say about the method and equipment.

  • Michael Williams (M),


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