Safety concerns raised over ramp

EXMOUTH S new RNLI boathouse ramp is causing safety concerns because large chunks of concrete are breaking off.

EXMOUTH'S new RNLI boathouse ramp is causing safety concerns because large chunks of concrete are breaking off.

An Exmouth RNLI supporter, who does not want to be named, said he believes crew and public safety was being compromised because the concrete was not strong enough to withstand the weight of the boat and its trailer.

He fears people walking near or under the ramp could be injured if the concrete fails.

The lifeboat supporter questioned whether shifting sand was the cause of the damage, and queried whether the new build was in the right location of beach.

"The crew haven't got confidence in the boathouse now and as someone who's raised money for it, neither have I," he said. "It is summer now, and the busiest season. The boathouse should be ready."

The damaged concrete was spotted during the latest training sessions. The RNLI has halted any further activity with equipment and ramp while checks are made - but denied the stoppage was a safety issue.

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Nigel Jones, RNLI deputy divisional inspector, said: "During recent training sessions at Exmouth, when the lifeboat was being taken back up to the boathouse on its carriage, damage occurred to the ramp. A number of pieces of concrete have broken off.

"There is no doubt over the structural integrity of the ramp. It is very strong thanks to metal bars that run through the concrete beams. These bars allow for compression and tension within the ramp beams.

"The question mark is over the concrete cladding and that is what is being investigated at present. This is not a safety issue, but it is important to establish that the RNLI is getting value for money.

"The work being carried out at present, including the investigations, are at no extra cost to the RNLI."

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.

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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