St Oswald's Church Yard Wall
St Oswald's Churchyard is a closed one and as such the maintenance of the churchyard and the wall is the responsibility of Cheshire West and Chester Borough Council (CW&C)
Following storm Christoph, a section of St Oswald's Church yard wall collapsed on Wednesday morning 20th January.
Within 10 minutes of the collapse Ward Councillor, Rachel Williams and Parish Councillor Chris Whitehurst attended the site to cone off the debris; this to protect vehicles from the danger of further collapses. Cheshire Highways were then contacted to attend and further secure the site.
At the beginning of February Rachel and Chris met with Clare Barlow from Cheshire West Council's (CW&C) Cemetery department. Clare was briefed on the importance of a swift resolution to the community, and she promised to drive the matter as fast as she was able.
The Parish Council recognised that the wall collapse had virtually cut the south Cheshire community in two, and letters were immediately sent to Andrew Lewis, CW&C Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and to our MP Edward Timpson, urging them to help resolve the matter as soon as possible.
Following these letters, Rachel and Parish Councillor John Webb met with our MP Edward Timpson and a few local residents on site. As an action from the meeting Edward undertook to make contact with Andrew Lewis and ensure the repairs would be treated as a priority.
As a follow up, Karl Farrow, CW&C Area Highways Engineer joined a Malpas Parish Council conference call on the evening of Monday 8th February.
Also on the call was a structural engineering advisor from Ramboll, the company who have been commissioned by the CW&C Cemetery Department to produce an initial structural report on the wall.
To allow the structural survey to take place CW&C Highways department put in place a temporary road closure to run between 1st and 21st February.
This was also to allow workmen to barrier off the fallen masonry and make the site safe for pedestrians.
At the same time a gas leak was subsequently identified alongside the wall, and this generated further concerns from residents on Church Street.
The initial survey was completed ahead of schedule and a report was sent to Cheshire West Council Building Control for action.
The report stated that the wall may be at risk along its entire length.
Where visible it consists of a very thin facing element, and there may therefore, be danger of further collapse. Hence why Church Street is fully closed off at this time.
The Ramboll have stated that further investigation will be required, which may result in work being required to be completed on the whole of the wall length.
Repair Work Pre-requisites:
It is recognised that the repairs will take some considerable time, mainly because of the initial preparation work involved; these being cited as:
Building consent will be required as the Wall is a grade 2 listed structure.
A Faculty will need to be obtained from the Church Dioceses to work on Church property.
A licence will be required to exhume and rebury any human remains that may be found.
Whilst we do not expect any opposition to the work taking place, obtaining these permissions could take a considerable time given the complexity of the application processes.
Without these permissions in place, it was not possible for Ramboll to give an estimate of the time repairs would take.
To bypass Church Street drivers are not sticking to the official diversion route and are using the local lanes.
This is understandable, given the official diversion route is something like 15 miles in length.
The speed and volume of traffic and localised flooding on these lanes is causing concern to many local residents.
Many of the verges are being torn up and to date there has already been a couple of accidents.
Highways have pledged to provide attention to these lanes by way of salt gritting, pothole repair and action on the flooded areas.
Some work to clean the lanes and fill some of the deeper potholes has been completed, but work to resolve the flooding because of collapsed land drain is still outstanding.
The Parish Council have made contact with the local police to ask them to give this route some priority attention.
Following their meeting on 8th February, the Parish Council made the following requests to CW&C:
1/ Install a temporary substantial retaining wall alongside the existing wall and then install traffic lights to allow single passage of vehicles. This may not be feasible because of the existing road width.
2/ Introduce a one way system around the Oldcastle are where the lanes are narrowest.
3/ Provide "Give Way" signs on junctions which currently lack them and install temporary speed restrictions because the national speed limit currently applies.
Measures 2 & 3 have only just been introduced and we are still waiting for a date when 1 will be started.
Potential Repair methods:
There are potential a number of ways to deal with the repairs including building a retaining wall behind the sandstone blocks to provide a reliable support to the graveyard.
The construction of that wall will have to be thin so as not to encroach into the road, and will then probably have to be tied back into the rock under the graves by installing steel tendons.
Then the sandstone blocks would then go back in place as a non-structural facia.
Whilst the Ramboll structural engineers recognise the constraints and factors that will influence how the permanent repair will be carried out, they have not yet stated how the permanent repair will be done.
The clearly fragile nature of the wall and the need to support the existing graves means that the repair work will need to be done in short sections which is inefficient but necessary, and hence will take a lot longer.
This approach will depend on the method used, and as explained above, the way in which the permanent repair will be effected is not yet been determined.
We know that at 19th February CW&C were still considering the options; this in assessing the technical feasibility and ways that would help to expedite the re-opening of the road.
Roadworks in Cheshire:
All roadworks within West Cheshire are recorded on a One Network web site. Link as follows:
On 2nd March an 18 month road closure was initiated. This will be in place until 1st September 2022. This time period is not relevant to the time required to repair the wall and only represents the legal maximum time allowed for a road to be closed by the local authority unless they seek further permission from the Secretary of State.
Clare Barlow from the CW&C Cemeteries and Crematorium Department is liaising with Ramboll, the specialist consultants, who have been commissioned to oversee repairs to the wall.
A structural engineer from Ramboll visited the site on 2nd March with a geotechnical expert to progress the design for repairs.
Apparently CW&C have considered a number of options suggested by Ramboll to allow traffic to reuse Church Street and it has now been agreed that a more substantial temporary propping structure will be erected next to the wall which will allow temporary traffic signals to be installed and Church Street to be reopened to vehicle traffic.
The temporary propping to protect traffic and pedestrians will need to be of substantial construction, and is now being designed by Ramboll.
As soon as quotes are assessed from different contractors work will be able start on site, however this is likely to still take a number of months before Church Street can be opened again to traffic.
It is not certain that weekly updates are feasible as the temporary works to reopen the road using traffic signals is a major project in itself. Clare Barlow from Cemeteries department and Highway engineers are progressing this as quick as possible.
Access to Parbutts Lane:
At the moment, it is just possible to get cars down Parbutts Lane, but it is very tight, and access is impossible for anything larger than a car.
This is a major issue for a number of reasons.
Septic tanks in the property need to be emptied and the lorry would not be able to get down.
Also, some remedial/essential structural work is required on one of the houses in the near future, which would also require van/lorry and equipment access.
Any temporary shoring work that is done could reduce the distance between the wall and the road side properties.
Consideration therefore needs to be given to ensuring that in the area opposite the lane itself, and any supporting structures will not encroach any further than the position of the original wall.
Further to this, during the repair work, it needs to be assured that the replacement wall is no closer to the buildings than the existing wall (especially opposite the lane) and ideally would be set back a further small amount.
Note* the temporary works will encroach into the existing carriageway, and it may not be possible to set the back further given that the wall is a listed structure.
Letters have been delivered to local residents, but they do not give any indication of the timescales for repairs to be actioned.
Highways Department Actions:
The route though the maze of Oldcastle lanes has been added to the official salt gritting route.
Road sweeping and gulley cleaning will also be undertaken as required.
A collapsed drain due to roots has been identified as having caused the flooding near the Blue Cedars property on Mastiff Lane. The repair work started over the weekend (27/28 March), and further works are programmed in for completion this week and over the weekend 3rd & 4 April.
A one way section on Old Castle Lane (from Dog Lane to Sunnyside) was introduced on 22nd March.
NOTE* The Parish Council have since asked for this to be made more substantial with better signage being provided.
Verge strengthening works also took place over the weekend (27/28 March) on Mastiff Lane.
Highways are currently investigating the suitability of additional give way signs, but are committed to renewing faded give way markings. The lining renewal works are currently being programmed.
Police Community Safety Officer: (PCSO)
Our Police Community Safety Officer, Jonathan Hurst has been fully briefed on the traffic problems of speeding and road rage.
Jonathan has agreed to give some priority attention to the area.
Work undertaken to date:
Ramboll have completed an initial survey of the site.
Harris security fencing has been erected in the church yard as an additional safety measure.
A tarpaulin cover has been provided to shield the graves from public view and protect area from further erosion.
The Parish Council recognise the considerable work that our Ward Councillor, Rachel Williams has put into getting us were we are to-date. She has worked very closely with us reinforcing our requests for action.
She has also been extremely busy coping with the many requests for information and action.
Rachel has been in direct contact with Andrew Lewis CW&C CEO, Karen Shore the portfolio holder for Environment and Place Operations, and Sue Begley the Highways Manager assigned to oversee the highways elements of the project; strongly challenging them to take action and come up with tangible dates for repairs to take place.
From the 20th January she has been harassing the CW&C Highways department on many of the issues, from establish a new gritting route down to the one way system and has been pushing hard for a final opening date for the road.
Further investigation work with a Ground Penetrating Radar survey of the wall face will commence on the wall and road this week; this to locate any hidden voids behind (that could result in further collapse), and to locate services (e.g. water, gas, electricity) and the accurate positions of any burials.
A laser scan survey will also be carried out to allow the exact details of the walls to be measured and recorded.
The information gathered will help ensure the stabilisation works can be carried out safely.
We are expecting these specialist surveys to be completed by the end of April.
The current plan is to install "Kingposts" in the road and then shore up the remaining wall with a timber support. Once this has been done it will be possible to re-open Church Street with traffic Lights.
However, the Parish Council has been informed it is likely to be some 10 weeks before this work can start.
It is anticipated that the temporary works will be completed early summer.
The timeframes described above are based on the assumptions that
a) The surveying works do not reveal information that requires either a change in the overall approach and/or an alteration to current plans and
b) Specialist contractors are available.
The Parish Council will issue monthly updates unless there are other significant developments in the interim period.
Malpas Parish Council
30th March 2021
Message from Andrew Lewis, Cheshire West and Chester Borough Council's CEO
18th March 2021
Church Street, Malpas – St Oswald's Wall Collapse
I was sorry to hear about the distressing experience of the collapse of part of St Oswald's Church wall on 19/20 January 2021, and the inconvenience this has caused residents since.
The area around the collapse has been cordoned off and the road closed to vehicles for safety purposes. There has been a period of monitoring of the wall, and further inspections carried out. We are committed to carrying out works to enable the road to open as soon as possible, but – as I'm sure you appreciate – we also need to ensure that we only open the road when it is safe to do so.
We will carry out a temporary repair to make the wall safe and allow for the re-opening of the road; but this will require specialist technical support and extensive surveying, which we are currently commissioning. At this stage we don't have a definitive timescale for this work, but will keep the Parish Council fully informed at every stage. We will also move forward with the plans for a longer term repair.
In the meantime, we recognise that the restrictions at the site, and the necessary diversion of traffic, are proving very inconvenient to some residents. We are reviewing the traffic management arrangements, and will look to establish both a short-term and more sustainable longer term solution.