A Lancashire seaside resort famous as the home of national treasure, Thora Hird, and the location of the short-lived Mr Blobby Land tourist attraction, Morecambe looks out across the Irish Sea to Ireland and the Isle of Man. The town’s seafront boasts the iconic, Art Deco Midland Hotel and a statue of its famous namesake, Eric Morecambe, and the latest edition to the coastal public realm is a three mile stretch of hard landscaped walkways, viewing platforms and sea defences known as the ‘Morecambe Wave Reflection Wall’.
To safeguard the town against the North Sea’s infamous erratic tides and unpredictable weather, the project involved replacement of the sea wall with a three-mile fibre-reinforced concrete wall. To create the interface between the walkway surface of the sea wall and the road that runs along the coastline, the public realm improvements included a podium wall that follows the contours of the existing pavement and leans backwards by 150 towards the town.
The wall includes three viewing areas, accessed by a ramp at each side and a central set of steps that fan out in a semi-circle. A matching set of ramps and steps mirrors this on the promenade side of the wall, creating ‘up and over’ access at three points along the three mile stretch.
While the height of the wall is consistent along its entire length, the undulating ground along its path means that in some places additional edge protection was required because the top line of the wall fell below the minimum height from street level that had been stipulated by the local authority.
Delta Balustrades was brought in to advise on edge protection requirements and develop a technical specification for balustrades at each up-and-over viewpoint section along with the varied points along the Morecambe Wave wall where height-related edge protection was required.
Delta Balustrades’ ‘Orbis’ system was specified for both the handrails and the balustrades, providing a tubular finish for both the handrails and upstands that complements the curved edges of the wall. Due to the outdoor nature of the project in a coastal location, the choice of steel and the finish of the steelwork was a vital consideration for the long-term aesthetics, durability and service life of the installation. The steel used was 316L marine grade stainless steel, which provides the maximum level of protection against weathering, contaminants and a saline atmosphere. The balustrades and handrails were fabricated with a 320 grit polish to provide a smooth, matt finish that will maintain its appearance over time and will prevent grime and contaminants from collecting on the surface.
For the balustrades on the steps and ramps at the up-and-over sections, the design called for stainless steel wire infill wires. Again, the local authority was keen to maximise the strength and durability of the installation, so the standard specification of three 5mm diameter wires was upgraded to 8mm wires. These were threaded through the intermediate posts along the ramp and the steps. A bottle tensioner was then used on the final post of each run to achieve the required tension.
In addition to the finish, careful consideration had to be paid to the fixings to ensure that they were tamper-resistant in the public environment. To achieve this, the installation team drilled into the reinforced structure and a threated insert was secured in the aperture using resin, enabling four security fixings to be used for each upstand.
The Morecambe Wave Reflection Wall project was designed to follow the curves of an existing natural coastline on one side and road on the other, with additional curves added into the mix at the steps and ramps for the viewpoint up-and-overs.
The Delta Balustrades team carried out a full site survey following construction of the steps and the ramps in order to ensure that all the fabrication drawings were correct. As the finished construction did not accurately match the data in the original design drawings, this proved to be an important step in delivering an accurate and problem-free installation on site, overcoming a number of complex curves and angles.
Safety & Aesthetics
In all, almost 4km of balustrade and handrail was used on the Morecambe Wave Reflection Wall project, delivering a solution that will protect l residents and tourists from falls onto the promenade area below while providing a stunning new look for the seafront.