New RNLI station: further ramp delays

EXMOUTH S new lifeboat station faces at least a month of further delays before it can officially open because tests are being carried out on the concrete ramp.

EXMOUTH'S new lifeboat station faces at least a month of further delays before it can officially open because tests are being carried out on the concrete ramp.

The ramp raised safety concerns at the end of June after large chunks of concrete began breaking off - raising fears the ramp was not strong enough to withstand the weight of the all-weather lifeboat and its trailer.

This week the RNLI has revealed tests are being carried out on the damaged ramp to establish the quality of the concrete.

The damaged concrete is the second blow to hit the �1.6million pound boathouse - In October 2008 the ramp was removed and replaced with the current slabs after the original concrete cracked.

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At the time, the RNLI said the cracks had 'caused concern' and the design had now been modified.

The RNLI originally said the boathouse, near Maer Rocks, would be completed by spring this year.

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Core samples of concrete from the ramp beams have been taken and the results are expected to take between four and six weeks.

The aim is to uncover why a number of pieces of concrete broke off during June training sessions when the lifeboat was being taken up to the boathouse on its carriage.

The RNLI said once the results are revealed, any work needed to ensure the beams are suitable for lifeboat access will be immediately carried out.

The sea safety charity said there was 'no doubt' over the structural integrity of the ramp - saying it was 'very strong' because of the reinforcement that runs through the concrete beams.

The RNLI said the question mark is over the quality of the concrete - which is what the core samples will concentrate on.

The charity said it was 'important' to establish the RNLI was getting value for money.

It said the investigations were at no extra cost to the charity.

At present, the state-of-the art seafront boathouse shop is in operation and the office base for the coxswain, and shore training facilities for the volunteer lifeboat crew.

RNLI deputy divisional inspector Nigel Jones said: "It is a regret to us all that we have had to endure a delay in moving the lifeboats to the new station, but we have to be confident that the ramp is fit for purpose.

"I'm sure our many generous supporters, who we thank for their continuing assistance, would not expect us to be anything but prudent in determining that we have the best possible ramp at this superb new lifeboat station."

Until the boathouse is operational, the all-weather lifeboat remains on its estuary mooring and the inshore boat is housed from the stone seafront boathouse.

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