A SUPER-SIZED crane with a police escort descended on Canvey to install a £1million new gate on the Benfleet Flood Barrier... but had to take it out again because it did not fit.

The 500-tonne crane, one of the largest in the country, towered over the island as it worked to remove and replace the gate at Canvey’s landmark flood defence on October 9.

Weighing a whopping 22-tonnes, the old navigation channel gate needed replacing after protecting the island from potential flooding disasters for over 30 years.

However, contractors were forced to remove the gate after a matter of minutes after noticing the gate was not the right design.

David Knagg, Operations Manager at the Evironment Agency, said: “Due to the complexity of replacing the Benfleet Barrier gate we have had to delay completion while new bearings are made.
“This is the first time a gate has been replaced since the barrier's construction in 1982 and it was not possible to assess all the integral parts prior to taking out the old gate. We now need to make some precision parts before we place the new gate in position permanently."

Days of preparation went into the massive undertaking including building a temporary foundation designed specifically for the type and size of the crane and the local ground conditions.

Another, smaller crane was then used to assemble the larger crane for use.

Ray Howard, Castle Point councillor responsible for waste, floods and water management, said: “It was quite an experience seeing that huge crane on the island, but unfortunately there was a problem with the design of the new gate so the operation couldn’t be completed.

“But it is gratifying to know that this money is being spent to help maintain this barrier to a very high standard.”

The new gate forms part of the Environment Agency’s £2.4million investment to improve flood defences in south Essex. Solar cells are being installed to help make the barrier more energy efficient.

Repairs are also being carried out to East Haven and Fobbing flood barriers including replacing the electric motors which lift and lower the barriers in high tide.

The barriers in Benfleet and East Haven creeks are closed whenever higher-than-average tides are expected to stop the creek from flooding Canvey and parts of the mainland which are below sea level.

They cost £12million to build and were designed to protect about 14,000 properties on Canvey, and in South Benfleet, plus Shell Haven and Fobbing Marshes.