Rye Harbour Discovery Centre Service Trench – Frequently Asked Questions
What is the service trench and why is it needed?
In order to get the Discovery Centre up and running, a number of services need to be provided:
- a new electricity supply
- a broadband internet connection
- a sewer to remove waste from the building (there is an existing water supply).
Because the Centre is located about 550 metres from the nearest service connections, a new trench is being dug from the turning circle near the Rye Harbour village car park, up to the new building, to carry the services. These will be installed in separate ducts within the same trench.
The trench is approximately 600mm wide and 1000mm deep. Electrical power, telecoms and the foul main sewer connection will all be in one trench, to minimise disruption.
What route will the trench take?
Between the connections in the vicinity of the turning circle and the Nook Drain (the water feature that passes under the road just to the south of the Information Cabins) the trench will run along the middle of the road. It will then continue along the western edge of the road up to the Discovery Centre, where it will cross the road in order to allow the connections to the building.
This is the most direct route and means that the trench will not intrude into the internationally important habitats within the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.
Traffic management measures may need to be being introduced for short periods whilst connections are made in the vicinity of the turning circle.
Why can’t it go in the soft ground all the way?
The river bank between the turning circle and the Nook Drain forms an important flood defence for the village of Rye Harbour, the Holiday Park and the farmland and settlements beyond, and it is important to avoid any risk to the integrity of the flood defences, or of increasing the risk of flooding for local residents. For these reasons, on the advice of the Environment Agency, it has been decided that the optimum route for the trench over this section is within the road itself. The road is being filled in and resurfaced after each section of the works.
What is the role of the Environment Agency and Natural England?
In addition to its responsibilities for flood risk management, the Environment Agency has a wide remit to secure the protection of the environment, including making sure that damage isn’t caused by pollution of rivers and water resources and the emission of damaging substances into the atmosphere. A method statement and an environmental risk assessment have been agreed with the agency as part of the application for a Flood Risk Activity Permit (or FRAP), ensuring that the provision of the trench is done to the highest possible environmental standards.
Natural England is the Government’s official adviser on wildlife, habitats, landscapes and public access to the countryside. The habitats and species at Rye Harbour Nature Reserve enjoy very high levels of protection, being designated under UK, European and international law, and any activities that might potentially damage them are strictly regulated. We will be ensuring that Natural England’s guidance is closely adhered to.
Who is digging the trench and when?
At the beginning of June, Sussex Wildlife Trust’s contractors Baxall began installing services for the Discovery Centre, from the Discovery Centre along the main access road to Rye Harbour car park.
The works are being completed in three phases, which started at the Discovery Centre and are working towards the car park. Where possible (and only if safe to do so), sections of the road and footpath are reopening when a phase has been completed. Trial holes have been dug to check the ground structure and an ecological survey was carried out before any vegetation was cleared. Checks for wildlife, especially any nesting birds have been conducted regularly along the route.
Will the road need to be closed and how will this affect access?
During this period, to ensure the safety of workers and the general public, there is some disruption to the use of the footpath along the road. Diversions, limited access, a partial closure and a one way system will be in place as and when necessary. Our contractors will make every effort to keep any disruption to a minimum whilst maintaining your safety. Unfortunately, there will be limited access throughout the works, with a narrower section of path available some of the time, and only the top of the grass bank at others, which were are sorry to say is not be suitable for wheelchair users or pushchairs.
We will aim to restore access as soon as we can, and will post regular updates. Cyclists will need to dismount and walk bikes past the works. We request that all visitors stay alert and monitor their own social distancing along the restricted sections of path. All visitors are encouraged to take an alternative route where possible and to follow local signage.
Parts of the road will need to be closed during the period when the trench and associated works are being dug. The work area will be fenced off, with pedestrian access largely maintained for the duration, and signed diversions in place.
There will be no general vehicle access.
The work will take place outside the period when the Environment Agency requires regular access to maintain the sea defences, and in the event that they need access in an emergency, they will do so using the alternative route from Winchelsea Beach.
Provision has also been made for emergency access by personnel from the Lifeboat Service, Coastguard and Border Patrol, if this is required.
Signage and notices are being displayed at the work boundaries to inform visitors of changes to access routes.
What measures are being taken to minimise impact on wildlife and habitats?
The work is being undertaken in accordance with a method statement, which sets out precisely how the digging of the trench will be carried out, and the means by which any impact on the wildlife and habitats of the nature reserve will be avoided.
The method statement will be regularly reviewed by the Trust and the contractor, to ensure the impact upon the reserve is minimised.
Particular attention is being paid to making sure that no damaging substances find their way, by any means, into the surrounding habitats. The progress of the work will be monitored against the agreed ways of working on a continuous basis and any necessary improvements incorporated into revised working methods as necessary.
There will be no incursion of machinery or personnel into the designated wildlife habitats.
Experience from the construction of the building itself strongly suggests that disturbance to wildlife will be very small or non-existent.
What implications does the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus have for the project?
Sussex Wildlife Trust and the contractors will adhere strictly to all Government guidance and regulations concerning steps necessary to limit the spread of the virus. Decisions will be taken as the situation develops about whether the construction project can proceed over this period.
All public courses and events including guided walks have been cancelled for the duration of the public health emergency.
Visitor numbers are currently significantly reduced, meaning that fewer people will be affected by the trench works.
How do we get more information?
For further information please contact: Sussex Wildlife Trust Head of Facilities and Premises, Emma Forward