Tunnelling work has been put off for the foreseeable future for the Brighton sewer on the UK’s south coast after client Southern Water again failed to secure planning approval for the scheme.

The client was unable to say what would happen to the tender process for the sewage treatment scheme and the two shortlisted JVs – AMG (consisting of Black & Veatch plus now merged Morgan Est and Amec), and 4D (Costain, United Utilities and MWH). They had bid on a design and build basis for a target cost reimbursable contract based on the IChemE ‘Burgundy Book’.

Work was to include 11km of tunnel bored through chalk, working from two drives, at Ovingdean and Peacehaven, to build the 2.4m i.d. segmentally lined sewer. Major shaft sinking would also be required for the project, which would also see construction of treatment works at Peacehaven, three pumping stations and a long sea outfall.

However, two government ministries refused permission to proceed with the scheme due to concerns related to the environmental and aesthetic aspects of the treatment works; there were no issues with the sewer but it cannot proceed until, and if, the scheme gets planning approval.

Earlier this year the client was hopeful that the plans, re-submitted in 2006, would have won approval within the last few months. In June, as an independent precursor to the main project, Amec completed a short shield drive to tap into a live sewer at Blackrock (T&TI, May, p6).

The project has been in planning for years and was first submitted for approval in 1998, rejected in 2001, re-submitted in 2006 but has failed again. Given the lengthy, but indeterminate, time the planning process can take, the client was assessing the full report from the ministries involved before deciding on its next steps.

Southern Water said its priority was to ‘resolve outstanding matters’ and deliver the scheme as quickly as possible. It noted the ministries know of the urgent need for the treatment scheme to meet EU standards.

Amec works on the Blackrock sewer