An exciting project which is breathing new life into Black Rock is progressing well, with several milestones due to be reached over the coming weeks and months.
The Black Rock Rejuvenation project is part of a large-scale regeneration effort to transform the city’s Eastern seafront and enable further development in the future.
Work already completed has included constructing a new sea wall, an 800-metre boardwalk, and introducing a new area of vegetated shingle, with hundreds of new plants grown by experts at Kew’s Millennium seedbank.
The Temple and Old Reading Room have now been restored
Two historic buildings, The Temple and Old Reading Room, have been restored and are ready to bring back into use as places for people to relax and grab food or drinks. News on the new tenants will be announced in the next few weeks.
Despite earlier setbacks due to water ingress, the interior of the Grade-II Listed Reading Room has been transformed with provision for a kitchen to support a new café, as well as new planting and a wonderful outdoor space created for enjoying the sea views and running events.
New link route
Work continues on the new link route between Black Rock and the Marina but unfortunately this will not be finished by September, as originally hoped.
This is due to ongoing discussions with Southern Water around how best to incorporate temporary foul drainage measures while work is carried out. An arrangement to allow Southern Water to ‘over pump’ the diverted sewer from the Marina is needed, while construction takes place, and this piece of work has delayed final completion of this section of the new link.
The contractor will set a new completion date once this programme of work has been delivered.
In the meantime, work continues at the western end of the site and includes digging out a new access route close to the current car park. The existing link will be narrowed and retained as a permanent cycle path.
New bridge installed
A new bridge structure was installed this week to create the ‘roof’ to the new walk/cycleway linking the Marina with Black Rock. Work is also underway to assess whether the car park can be brought back into use earlier than planned.
New lighting on the boardwalk has been installed and will be switched on once final tests have been carried out. Low level lighting will also be installed along the new link route.
However, proposals for new heritage lighting columns between the Black Rock station and Dukes Mound are currently on hold due to increased costs, but could be included as part of Phase 3 of the Black Rock permanent development.
In response to safety concerns, the project’s landscape consultant and council’s Cityparks team are currently working on plans to re-landscape a section of the Dukes Mound slopes and control the spread of the dense wild tamarisk protecting sea views and letting in natural light.
This work is ongoing, but plans include introducing wildflowers once sufficient wild tamarisk has been removed.
Impact of rising construction costs
Sadly, plans for a pump track and classroom have been postponed due to rising construction costs, but informal play areas will be included in the landscaped areas. Basketball hoops will be installed, and a roller-skating area is also being considered. A new pump track is being provided as part of the Kingsway to the Sea project further along the seafront.
The Black Rock toilets at the Volks station will remain open and disabled facilities will be available at the Reading Room.
The new completion date for the Black Rock site is likely to be after Christmas, but in time for events to take place next spring.
Cllr Alan Robins, chair of the Culture, Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Economic Committee said; “It’s been wonderful to see this once neglected area gradually come back to life and to hear such positive feedback from residents, who particularly enjoy the fantastic new boardwalk.
“It’s disappointing that, with construction costs rising and complications which have arisen over the first three years of the project, we have had to re-think some of our initial plans, but there is so much to look forward to with two new cafes, play areas, basketball, landscaping and a new cycle path all due to be in place by next spring.”