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Sunderland council bosses back £3.1m emergency repair works on storm-damaged coastline

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Multi-million pound emergency repairs to coastal defences and piers caused by storm damage have been given the go ahead by council chiefs.

Sunderland City Council (SCC)’s cabinet agreed to the works yesterday (April 25) which cover Old North Pier, New South Pier and Stonehill Wall.

The £3.1m estimated costs will come from the council’s capital budget and aim to fix damage caused by the Beast from the East storm which hit the UK earlier this year.

Work on Old North Pier are set to start by next weekand include stablising its eroded section, sheet piling and concreting.

Schedules for New South Pier and Stonehill Wall works are being drawn up, the cabinet heard.

Coun Mel Speding, delivering the report to cabinet, said there was no “do nothing option” for the repairs, adding the Marine Wharf beach could be lost if no action was taken.

Roker Pier – which suffered no structural damage but saw railings ripped off – is not included in the emergency work, with an update on repair plans to be announced by the council.

The council’s  deputy leader, Coun Michael Mordey, also thanked the council’s environmental services staff for cleaning up debris, describing the weather as a “once in twenty years storm.”

“Staff absolutely worked their fingers to the bones,” he said.

When the Beast from the East and Storm Emma hit, snowy and icy conditions caused disruption to council services and road networks across the UK.

Coun Mel Speding, referencing the £433,000 costs of extra council staffing between December 2017 and March 2018, said it was “entirely worth its weight in gold for the operations that were carried out”.

SCC’s chief operating officer, Les Clark, speaking after the meeting, explained the importance of the repairs.

“The construction of the Old North Pier began in the late 18th Century as part of the development of the Port of Sunderland and is now over 200 years old,”he said.

“It protects the Port of Sunderland and residential properties, as well as the beach itself and it is important that we undertake these repairs.”

He added: “All these repairs should prevent the damage getting worse and therefore reduce the risk of mounting costs in the future.”

All emergency works are expected to take between eight and 20 weeks to complete and, subject to contractor availability, could all run at the same time

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service