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Cost saving tests to find out what lies beneath Armada Way

Plans to get the Armada Way regeneration scheme off the drawing board and into action are progressing with investigations to find what’s beneath the surface due to start shortly. It is hoped that this work will enable project costs to be reduced.

A series of bore holes will be created across 28 locations so that the contractors can get a better picture of what’s under the ground.

Morgan Sindall will carry out the testing which is expected to take around two weeks to complete. The work will help the Council finalise costs and programming for the proposed project to regenerate Armada Way.

The exploration works follows on from a special Growth and Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny committee held on Monday to look at proposed key changes to the scheme, following an engagement exercise in Autumn. The committee reviewed the scheme and made a number of recommendations for Cabinet consideration later next month.

The planned investigative works will give the Council more detailed information about the ground conditions, of any underground cables and other utilities that are expected to be below the surface. They will also help get a better sense of how deep the concrete slab that was used to cover the post war rubble is – in some places it is thought to be only 30 cm deep, in others over a metre.

There is also the possibility of land contamination, including hydrocarbons and heavy metals from an old iron foundry that existed off Russell Street from the 18th century and was reported to have provided iron for Plymouth and Dartmoor railways as well as the construction of Plymouth breakwater and lighthouse.

When it is better understood what lies beneath Armada Way, final construction costs can be determined – it is hoped that the costs will be reduced as a result.

Council leader Tudor Evans said “Investigations of this sort are entirely normal for projects of this scale and this is another step in the right direction to help us finalise designs and costs.

“We know people will be concerned about recent headlines about the costs, but knowing what’s underground before we start should significantly reduce the risks identified in the project and help bring the estimated budget down.

“But we have to be realistic that creating a city centre that we all can be proud of cannot be done on the cheap. We are trying to create something really special that will be a focal point for our city.”

Contractors on the other key public realm projects in the city centre encountered huge challenges caused by post war rubble encased in a massive concrete slab that covered voids, old cellars and closed off Victorian drains. There were also problems with more modern utilities including communications and electricity cabling – none of which was mapped correctly.

He added: “Traders and shoppers have been extremely patient while we sought to rectify these issues and I am pleased to see there is real visible progress – at last – on these two streets.

“We are not expecting to dig as deep on Armada Way when it finally starts, but we want to do all we can to get an accurate picture of the conditions.”

The test pits will be roughly the size of a big table with Heras fencing to protect the public. The pits will not be near any trees on Armada Way.