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Challenging sewer repair completed

image depicting The medieval Larkbeare Bridge
The medieval Larkbeare Bridge
Work to repair a collapsed sewer close to a buried medieval bridge in Exeter has finished today.

A section of the 300mm pipe beneath Holloway Street collapsed in January but the repair was complicated by its proximity to the Larkbeare Bridge, a scheduled ancient monument, which lies 2.4 metres beneath the road.

South West Water and its contractors May Gurney worked closely with Devon County Council, which maintains the bridge, and English Heritage, which fast-tracked the required permissions so work could start straight away.

Specialist teams trained in working in confined spaces and archaeologists from AC archaeology were among those who helped repair the 9.5-metre section of damaged pipe. Much of the work had to be done by hand to avoid vibrating machinery damaging the bridge, including digging a trench 9.5 metres long by 1.3 metres wide and 1.7 metres deep to reach the sewer.

One lane of Holloway Street had to be closed with temporary two-way traffic lights in place while the repairs were carried out.

South West Water project manager Geoffrey Rogers said: "We are very pleased to have completed this difficult and delicate repair successfully and - given the challenging circumstances - quickly.

"Holloway Street is one of the main commuter routes in and out of Exeter city centre so we knew we needed to repair the pipe as soon as possible, but at the same time our priority had to be to ensure the medieval bridge was protected.

"It's an amazing structure and it has been a privilege to catch glimpses of this fantastic example of medieval engineering.

"We're also very grateful for the people of Exeter for being so patient during the lane closure and repair work."

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said: "This has been an excellent example of different agencies working together to minimise the impact on traffic on this busy route into the city.

"It has been far from straightforward, with all of the teams involved ensuring the scheduled monument beneath Holloway Street is repaired and protected, but everyone has got on with the task in hand to complete the work as swiftly as possible."

Phil McMahon, Inspector of Ancient Monuments for English Heritage in the South West, said: "We have worked closely with South West Water and Devon County Council, the owners of the Scheduled 13th century bridge, to ensure the works progressed as quickly as possible and that this remarkable and rare example of medieval engineering was protected and repaired in a sympathetic way."

Notes to editors

  • South West Water provides water and sewerage services to over 1.6 million people across Devon, Cornwall and parts of Somerset and Dorset
  • South West Water operates over 630 sewage treatment works and 29 water treatment works
  • South West Water maintains 14,800km of public sewers and 15,101km of water mains
  • We supply our customers with around 349 mega litres (79 million gallons) of drinking water every day
  • On average, half a billion litres of sewage arrives at South West Water's treatment works every day.
  • In 2014 South West Water will submit its business plan for the years ahead to the UK water industry regulator Ofwat. We are inviting customers to find out more and tell us what they think our priorities should be at www.southwestwater.co.uk/waterfuture

Published: 8 February 2013

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