CONTROVERSIAL ‘temporary’ railings installed at Weymouth Harbour this year are to remain in place, Dorset Council has announced.
The council is proposing to keep the current safety railings on Custom House Quay, Weymouth, in place ‘for the foreseeable future’.
The railings were initially installed as a temporary measure in preparation for increased visitor numbers over the summer, partly due to the pandemic. At the time, the council said it would remove them after the summer and seek feedback from residents and other interested parties on future safety arrangements.
But the council has revealed it is to U-turn on the decision, after council officers reviewed the railings’ effectiveness over the summer and advised that they should be kept in place permanently to maintain safety in this area of the harbour and to complement the public realm improvements being made at Custom House Quay.
The railings were installed in April earlier this year amid discussions between the council and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE.) The HSE said additional outdoor seating on the harbour had ‘quite rightly’ prompted the council to consider its harbour wall control measures to ensure that people were adequately protected from falling in. No correspondence has come from the HSE since April, the council confirmed.
Dorset Council said full consideration has been given to whether the existing railings should remain in place, or whether they should be replaced with a different design. The current railings cost £40,000 and the authority said they will allow flexibility for harbour user needs in the future.
An alternative type of railing with a more traditional, heritage appearance and made from Ferrocast Polyurethane could be used instead in this area of the harbour. However, the replacement cost would be approximately £100k including installation and does not give flexibility of use.
“Based on Health and Safety advice and the known risk of people falling into the harbour, removing railings altogether in this area of the harbour is not an option,” a spokesman said.
The council confirmed that Weymouth Harbour staff have had to ask people climbing over the railings to come away from the edge on several occasions. There is signage in place warning of the deep water below.
Local residents and businesses are able to give their views on this proposal by emailing DorsetHighwaysBSU@dorsetcouncil.gov.uk by October 31, and the council has given assurances that feedback will be reviewed and considered.
A final decision will then be taken by the portfolio holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, having considered comments from both harbour users and Dorset residents.
Councillor Ray Bryan, portfolio holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, said: “We believe the safety railings installed on Custom House Quay in April this year may have helped to save lives by preventing people from falling into the harbour and drowning this summer, as has very sadly happened in recent years. We installed the railings on the advice of the Health and Safety Executive and we maintain this was the right thing to do.
“I’m well aware that there was opposition to the railings when they were installed earlier this year. However, they have proved their worth over recent months keeping visitors safe and those who earn their living within the harbour able to carry out their work, the current railings have weathered-in now, and they meet the needs of a busy working harbour and its users.
“As portfolio holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, I have to make some really difficult decisions and ensure we spend taxpayers’ money as efficiently as possible. It is my view that the current railings work well, and it would not be cost effective to replace them with alternative barriers which would cost more and require ongoing maintenance. However, I am open to listening to residents’ views on this and will make a final decision once I’ve considered all feedback.”