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Allow extra time during Belton Hills steps replacement

Published Tuesday, 17th April 2018

Users of the Belton Hills steps in Leigh should allow extra walking time, as a major engineering project to replace the steps and paths begins on Monday.

The steps will be inaccessible until the works have been completed, meaning frequent users should prepare accordingly as journey times to and from the station and surrounding areas will increase. Alternative routes will be in operation and clearly signed.

The works, which are estimated to last six months, will be undertaken by the Council’s contractor Marlborough after £1.4m was added to the Council’s capital programme as part of the 2016/17 budget.

The work is needed as the steps have deteriorated in recent years due to ground movement. The work will stabilise the ground supporting the steps with piling, replace the steps in their entirety, replace the east and west paths, replace the handrails and install new LED lighting.

Scott Dolling, Director of Culture, Tourism and Property at Southend-on-Sea Borough Council, said: “This is a major engineering project that requires significant investment to ensure the steps and paths are fit for purpose for many years to come.

“Large numbers of rail commuters use these steps every day to get to and from Leigh Station, and as such we consider them an important piece of local infrastructure. Doing nothing would have resulted in these steps having to be closed permanently.

“We are taking a long-term approach to the work so that the steps and paths will be more resistant to future ground movement, so will not need such frequent repairs in future.

“We apologise for the inconvenience this activity may cause in the short term but hope local people will understand the necessity of the work and the benefits it will bring once complete.”

An alternative temporary path was considered as part of this project, but it would mean the project would take longer to complete and the cost of doing so safely also proved prohibitive.

Removal of trees

Ahead of the steps works, both a trees survey and an ecological survey were undertaken by experts. Unfortunately, during the inspection of the trees, four Monterey Cypresses aligning the steps were found to be dead or in a declining condition and have had to be removed from the Belton Hills Nature Reserve for the ongoing safety of parks users.

The park is designated as a Local Nature Reserve and is an important grassland habitat supporting some species of plants, reptiles and invertebrate. As Monterey Cyprus is a non-native species originating from the coast of California, it does not support the local grassland habitat. While the healthier three trees are being retained, the trees that have been removed will not be replaced next to the steps.  However, native species will be planted elsewhere in Leigh-on-Sea to maintain the number of trees in the local area.

How the steps and paths will be replaced

The steps in the Nature Reserve will be replaced with precast concrete steps. Before these steps are delivered, workers must first remove all the current paths and steps and then drive screw piles into the ground to build deep foundations that will make the steps and paths more resistant to ground movement in future. Once the screw piles are in place, workers will then start installing the new steps and paths.

Due to the scale of the project, a lot of heavy plant and machinery will be needed on site to move earth and materials around.