|Photo: Ant Mercer|
The steps leading to the Ashton Memorial in Williamson Park have been closed for over a year due to the condition of the foundations and support structures below ground, which has made the steps unsafe for use by members of the public.
Work to restore the steps commenced in December.
A crane arrived on site this week to begin the task of carefully removing the fragile curved granite steps to make way for repairs to the areas of damaged stone, foundations and supporting structures. A new supporting structure to the lower staircase will be constructed in reinforced concrete and steel, the repaired granite steps replaced and the masonry joints re-pointed.
The failure of the supporting structure to the granite steps is partly due to the original construction specification typical of the time. This comprised of rolled steel joists and coke breeze concrete. This type of concrete does not provide full corrosion protection of the steel.
Water ingress through the masonry joints in the steps has allowed rain water ingress into the supporting structure, damaging the concrete and causing corrosion of the steel beams.
Coun Ron Sands, Cabinet member with responsibility for tourism and culture, said: "Williamson Park remains one of Lancashire's most popular attractions. This Grade I listed building is now more than 100 years old and like any building of its age needs careful maintenance.
“Such restoration work which by its very nature requires specialist contractors and skills is vital to ensuring that this magnificent building continues to serve our local communities and attracts visitors to the district for another 100 years."
Since December, the contractors have been working on this confined site during week days to keep any disruption to a minimum.
Lancaster City Council is funding the £183,000 reconstruction of the park steps by local construction company, Colin Briscoe Construction Limited, and specialist stone masons, Askins and Little.
The project is on time and weather dependant should be completed by the end of March/early April 2013.