Articles & Case Studies

Regeneration makes a splash in Castleford

Posted: Monday 28th April 2008

Over the past 20 years, regeneration projects have sprung up across the UK, bringing back to life long neglected areas of our cities and reinventing towns whose traditional industries no longer fit with our modern way of life.

One such project, the regeneration of Castleford in West Yorkshire, does not just involve a facelift to the fabric of this former mining town, it entails an environmental renaissance, with the River Aire at its heart. Indeed, such is the interest, support and significance given to this particular regeneration project, it has become a TV first, with Channel 4 due to screen a major documentary series about it later this year. Progress has been filmed for four years, offering the British public a real insight into the process of regeneration and the challenges it presents for both the agencies that drive it and the contractors that deliver it.

A Bridge to the Future

Like many regeneration projects, Castleford has gained an iconic structure that not only enhances the town with a practical new route across the river, but also provides a symbol of the new era in the town’s history. Built at a cost of £4.8 million, the town’s new 131m footbridge weaves an undulating path across the river, linking the town centre on the north bank with areas of historic importance and natural beauty on the south bank.

The curved path of the bridge is supported across the river by four piers, which are anchored to the riverbed by piles driven into the riverbed. It was a challenging project for contractor, Costain, not least because of the swollen river conditions caused by the heavy rainfall during the summer months. The integrity of the piers – and stability of the bridge - depended on Costain’s ability to keep river water out of the piles and for this the contractor enlisted the help of pumping specialist, Sykes Pumps.

“The project required pumps capable of removing relatively large amounts of water from the piles,” explained Steve Booth from Sykes Pumps. “What’s more, because the piles were positioned a few metres [CC1] from the riverbank, the pumps had to be manoeuvrable enough to be floated out into position.

“The solution we came up with was two GP80 3 inch pumps, which have a 34 litres/second pumping capacity but are small and lightweight enough that Costain could position them on barges floating next to the piles themselves.”

The pumps were kept running 24 hours per day throughout construction of the bridge to ensure that there was no water in the piles when the piers were put in position. Reliability of the equipment was critical, but Sykes Pumps fortnightly servicing and maintenance commitment ensured that this was never an issue.

“Any breakdown of the pumps could have set the schedule back,” comments Andy Langley from Costain, “because keeping the piles dry was critical to our progress. The inspection from a Sykes Pumps engineer every two weeks gave us peace of mind that the equipment was always in full working order, which, given that river levels rose considerably over the exceptionally wet summer, was really important.”

Something Fishy

Sykes Pumps provided the same assurance of pump efficiency for Costain’s other job on the River Aire, just a few feet away from the bridge. But on this job, the need for reliability was not only about getting the job done on time, but also about protecting the delicate eco-system on the riverbank.

Following an Environment Agency clean up, the stretch of the River Aire that passes through Castleford is in better shape than it has been for generations. The fish population, in particular the salmon population, is beginning to thrive, flanked either side by a riverbank that offers a rich natural habitat for a host of creatures including Cormorants, herons and otters. It’s a success story that The Environment Agency is keen to build upon and, to help fish stocks in the river continue to improve, the agency contracted Costain to build a ‘fish pass’ or ‘salmon ladder’ to help the salmon swim upstream to their spawning grounds.

[Andrew Langley] explains: “Between the area of the river where we have built the fish pass and the salmons’ spawning grounds there is a weir. The Environment Agency was concerned that difficulty in navigating the weir could prevent many of the salmon from reaching their destination and affect the salmon population over time. The solution is quite simple, to construct a raised path on the riverbed beneath the surface of the water to give them an accessible route upstream.”

The solution may have been simple but the practical requirements of putting the fish pass in place were less straightforward. Because the fish pass had to be constructed on the riverbed, large volumes of water had to be pumped away from the construction area, both while the fish pass was being built, and while the concrete dried. Once more, Costain brought in Sykes pumps to advise on the best pumping equipment to use for the job.

“The challenge here was not just about keeping the area dry,” explains [Sykes Pumps spokesperson], “though clearly specifying equipment capable of pumping sufficient volumes of water was critical. The environmental considerations posed by the site were also key and they were three-fold: to minimise disruption to homes and businesses located very close to the site, to ensure local wildlife was not unduly disturbed and to protect the delicate environment on the riverbank.”

Sykes Pumps’ response to the brief was to provide four Super Wispaset 100 super silenced pumps, all sited along the riverbank. Each pump is capable of pumping 45 litres of water per second and, with Sykes Pumps’ unique 14-day service and maintenance inspection visits included as standard within the hire agreement, Costain could be confident that the equipment would pump away 180 litres of water per second around the clock.

Operating at a noise level of just 58-65 decibels the Super Wispaset 100s are far quieter than even most silenced pumps. Pumping the water away from the construction area both day and night was essential to the success of the project and the quiet operation of these pumps meant that Costain could achieve this with no risk of disturbing local residents or wildlife.

The pumps also helped to protect the birds and small animals that have made their homes on the riverbank. The Super Wispaset 100 pump has an integral drip tray that catches any leaked fuel and the pump’s design also includes a built-in bund, providing an impenetrable barrier between the pump and the ground. [Sykes Pumps spokesperson] continues: “Any industrial pump can have a fuel spillage, it’s one of the inherent risks of large plant. The important factor in this application was to ensure that the risk of spillage did not involve a risk of site contamination and the Super Wispaset 100’s fully bunded design ensures that it simply isn’t possible for any leaked fuel to reach the ground.”

A River Runs Through It

Work on both the bridge and the fish path is now almost complete, ready for the transformation of Castleford to be unveiled to the nation by Channel 4 later this year. Regeneration schemes across the country may include ‘riverside’ residential developments, but few can boast a river that so much defines the heart of a newly invigorated town.

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