Sunday 15 December 2019

Dangerous boards ripped up in Wexford Quayfront revamp

Large sections of quay losing link with the 'woodenworks'

The boards are removed, ready for the new surface
The boards are removed, ready for the new surface
The damaged boards had become a danger to pedestrians. Some are being repaired; other sections are being removed and replaced with tarmac overlaid with a resin-bonded surface incorporating gravel
A Padraig Grant photograph from 1990 showing the old woodenworks on Wexford quay

Maria pepper

A large section of the boardwalk on Wexford's award-winning quayfront has been removed for safety reasons and is due to be replaced in the coming weeks by a foundation of tarmac and bonded resin embedded with Kilmore pebble as part of a €200,000 contract which will include three new pedestrian crossings on the quays.

All the timber boards on the working dock section of the harbour between Wexford Bridge and Custom House Quay have been ripped up because they had become damaged and were dangerous to pedestrians. A new surface is being laid in their place with the work expected to be fully completed by mid-August at the latest.

The replacement is an interim measure designed to address safety issues on the quay, pending an overall 'special project' revitalisation plan for the quayfront which is being drawn up by architectural consultants, and will initially focus on Crescent Quay where, in the meantime, the boardwalk adjacent to the Tourist Office will be repaired and maintained.

Some questions have been raised about the removal of the wooden boards which were installed on the newly-extended quayfront in the late 1990's, following a public campaign of protest in the 1980s over a Council decision to demolish the town's rotting Victorian 'woodenworks' that had been in place for 120 years, and to replace it with the current harbourside amenity.

'I haven't seen the overall plan but I think they should keep a wooden element of it somewhere', said Rowe Street art gallery owner Denis Collins who was involved in the original campaign to preserve the boardwalk. 'It's always much nicer to walk on wood than it is on tarmac.'

'I can see why they would want to replace it to avoid having to constantly carry out repairs but when you have a working quay with trucks going in and out, you're going to have wear and tear and I think it should be maintained. They're going to have to maintain the new surface anyway because of the level of traffic there is on the quayfront.'

Photographer Padraig Grant who was also a member of the the Woodenworks preservation campaign, recalled that the use of timber boards on the new quayfront was a 'token gesture' at the time. 'It was a compromise solution that suited no-one at the end of the day. It's a working quay and that's fantastic but it brings vehicular traffic and that was always going to mean damage.'

'I'm sure the new surface will be safe and that it's better than what's there. It's an important public amenity and we should try to make it as attractive as possible. The idea of the promenade is a great social thing, like Brighton Pier and other places, and having wooden boards is definitely much nicer'.

Wexfordman Ray Ballantyne contacted the Wexford People when the saw the boards being taken up. 'The 'woodenworks' on Wexford Quays are in the process of being ripped up and will be replaced by tarmacadam embedded with Kilmore stone. A cheap and nasty solution', he said.

'The attempt by planners in the late nineties to pay homage to the original unique woodenworks was a brave but ultimately unsuitable effort.

'Surely a more suitable and imaginative solution can be found i.e. coloured slabbing in a marine motif could do so much better,' said Mr. Ballantyne.

The Council said the exposed nature of the location caused significant deterioration of the decking and supporting timbers underneath. 'The effect of this deterioration has been to distort and damage the wooden decking walking surface resulting in a significant number of trip and fall incidents', said a spokesman.

'In response, Wexford County Council has commenced the repair of a portion of the walkway worst affected, measuring some 300 linear metres. The wooden decking and supporting timbers in this area are being removed, to be replaced with a tarmac base which will then be overlaid with a resin-bonded stone chip surface, making the area safe to use once again for thousands of pedestrians who enjoy the amenity.'

'The new resin-bonded surface is similar to that currently in use in many outdoor urban centres in Ireland and abroad. It is weather resistant, visually appealing and highly suited to use by pedestrians of all levels of mobility. It is also very suitable for use by wheelchairs, prams buggies etc', said the spokesman, adding that timbers removed from the area will be recycled where possible, with those least demaged to be retained for use in repairing other sections of the boardwalk area. Once the tarmacadam is laid, it will be left for about three weeks before the bonded resin goes on and it could be mid-August before the job is finished but people will be able to walk on it for a period in the meantime.

Labour councillor George Lawlor welcomed the repairs, saying the damaged boards were 'extremely dangerous'.

'I'm amazed that the Council hasn't been sued on multiple occasions on account of it', he said.

The quayfront cost £17 million and took four years to complete following a £50 million main drainage scheme in the town.

Wexford People

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