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What’s Hot – Stonehenge Tunnel, Toddbrook Dam and University of Portsmouth

Here’s our pick of what’s hot right now and under the spotlight in the Architecture, Engineering & Construction arena!

Stonehenge – light at the end of the tunnel?

If you’ve been around the engineering world for some time, chances are you’ve heard about this project. The first proposal to upgrade the A303 under the World Heritage Site dates back to 1995. The initial plan put forward by the Government was rejected based on archaeological damage. Later, in 2002, a new plan for a 1.3-mile bored tunnel was developed by the Secretary of State for Transport. Once again, it found many challenges, with National Trust, English Heritage and UNESCO raising many concerns. In 2005 the Government abandoned the proposal, partly because the construction estimate had doubled to £470 million.

After more development options were mooted, finally in January 2017 the Government allowed the proposal. Highways England held public consultations in 2018, with a £1.6 billion budget for the entire A303 improvement scheme. Although they gained support from English Heritage and National Trust, the Stonehenge Alliance and Friends of the Earth were still unconvinced. However, on the 6th January 2020, the Planning Inspectorate passed its formal recommendation to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Unfortunately for us, we will have to wait until Shapps makes a final decision to read the recommendation report. This will need to happen within the next 3 months. Highways England is planning to start construction in 2021 and open by 2026. However, contractors have raised concerns about funding and the allocation of risk, with no tier one contractor currently keen on taking the job. Even with construction planned for next year, there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding this project.

Toddbrook reservoir dam – repairs have commenced after 5 months!

Last August, the UK witnessed the biggest incident of the decade involving a dam. And it could easily have been the biggest of the century. When the 188-year-old dam reached its maximum capacity due to heavy rainfall, water began overtopping. The emergency team pumped out 105,000m3 of water in 12 hours. With the dam structure showing signs of failure, helicopters dropped more than 1,000 sandbags and 600 bags of aggregate to stop the damage. Thousands of residents had to evacuate the downstream villages. The rapid actions taken by Kier, the dam’s maintenance contractor, prevented the catastrophe.

Five months later, on 6th January 2020, works commenced on the dam to repair the damage. The cost estimate for the works is £10 million and will last several years. The repairs involve increasing the height of the spillway crest by 1m at either end and installing concrete barriers to channel any overflowing water to the central undamaged section. Additionally, the reservoir’s inlet channel will be improved with gates. This will enhance the control that operators have over how much water enters the reservoir. In the meantime, former ICE president David Balmforth will publish a report this month with the results of the investigation about the damage caused last year to the dam.

University of Portsmouth – a new emblematic building is coming!

The UK’s most widely recognised provider of architectural competitions – RIBA – has recently announced the winner for the new academic building at University of Portsmouth. FCBStudios has been selected for the Victoria Site. It will bring together the Faculty of Business and Law with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. The new building will not only provide accommodation for research and teaching, but also student support services, a general administrative space and public space on the ground floor.

This architectural project is part of a more ambitious plan at Portsmouth Uni. They have a Masterplan worth £400 million which is expecting to deliver over the next 10 years. The new 13-storey building will include two 250-seat and a 500-seat lecture theatre at the lower levels. One of the most emblematic features will be a large ocular window with fantastic views. In the words of Professor Graham Galbraith, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth: ‘The design is an outstanding example of a sustainable and environmentally responsible building’.

If you enjoyed reading about these projects and don’t want to miss out on other hot schemes, remember to stay tuned to our blog!


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