Suffolk businesses stand to gain from Ipswich’s new flood barrier

Isaacs on the Quay. Picture: by Gavin King Photography

Isaacs on the Quay. Picture: by Gavin King Photography - Credit: Archant

Ipswich’s new flood barrier is nearing completion, and it is set to benefit Suffolk businesses in more ways than one.

Ipswich tidal defence barrier coping units. Picture: Paul Silcox

Ipswich tidal defence barrier coping units. Picture: Paul Silcox - Credit: Archant

Once it is fully operational from September, the barrier being installed across the New Cut of the River Orwell should help protect 422 businesses in the Waterfront area of the town centre, as well as 1,600 homes.

The £70m flood defence project to design, construct and install the 20m wide tidal barrier gate on behalf of the Environment Agency is being undertaken by VBA, a joint venture comprising VolkerStevin, Boskalis Westminster and SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business.

VBA have commissioned the pre-cast concrete company Poundfield Products, based near Stowmarket, to supply 130 coping units in a number of instalments to support both the barrier itself and the adjoining piled flood defence walls.

Poundfield Products, which was acquired in December 2017 by Construction materials group SigmaRoc in a deal worth up to £10.25m, has previously been commissioned to supply a range of different concrete blocks to a number of projects in the north east of England and eastern Scotland.

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Poundfield’s director of bespoke products Tim Evans explained that the coping units are “complicated to produce” due to their varied size, shapes and curves. “To achieve this, we needed to use a mixture of three different elements in the production of the moulds: timber, fibreglass and glass reinforced plastic. It is absolutely essential to combine these components in the right way and in the correct proportions and get this process right first time.”

The units, which will complete the flood walls, have been designed to follow the profile of the existing flood protection schemes to Griffin Wharf and to the east of the river.

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One of the businesses being protected by the new flood barrier is Isaacs on the Quay, a historic site with four bars, a cafe and conference facilities on Wherry Quay. Its owner, Aidan Coughlan, explained that fortunately, his premises hasn’t experienced any serious flooding from a tidal surge. “It was fairly close in 2013 but nowhere like the surge in 1953,” he said. “As part of our development we had comprehensive Flood Risk Assessments (FRA) carried out which included getting staff and customers to higher ground in the very unlikely event of severe flooding. This will be substantially eased by the barrier.

“We welcome the significant investment as it will remove the risk of extreme flooding in the area, which will make us feel more secure and encourage other developments in the future.”

Matt Moss, Poundfield’s commercial director added: “This contract win is especially pleasing for two reasons. Firstly, because it confirms growing reputation in providing high quality products to coast and sea defences projects up and down the country.

“Secondly, as a company proud of its Suffolk roots and ethos, it is particularly satisfying to be playing a part in securing the safety of so many people and livelihoods in Suffolk’s county town on this incredibly important Environment Agency project. We are pleased to be playing our part in this great engineering achievement.”

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