The longevity of any new installation was the most important factor to the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, the organisation responsible for the management of this area. Firstly the need to periodically replace weathered steps burdens the council with continual material and labour costs. The steps experience heavy foot traffic, and take a battering from the coastal winds and rain, and have needed replacing on a number of occasions. Secondly the site is a conversation area, where continual disturbance of the environment is undesirable.
The British Trust of Conservation Volunteers (now, the Trust of Conservation Volunteers, or TCV) had used British Recycled Plastic lumber on a number of projects, and were aware of the durability of the product. Recycled plastic lumber is impact resistant, will not rot split or splinter and is immune to moss and algae growth and impact damage. It can be used as a straight replacement for wood, offering a significantly increased lifespan and therefore the longevity required by the client.
British Recycled Plastic supplied the volunteers with various recycled plastic lumber profiles from which they then pre-fabricated 90 separate frames in their workshop. The recycled plastic can be cut, screwed and bolted in the same way as wood, with the added benefit that the material does not splinter during cutting making it easy to produce identical units. The steps were designed so that each step frame would slot into the one below it, making an easy to install kit with added strength and stability.
The frames were delivered to site and the excavation process began, removing the old wooden steps and replacing them with the recycled plastic. This involved a lot of spade work, removing the soil, carefully placing the frame, backfilling it with the soil and slotting the next frame into place. The project took over a month, with 72 steps installed in the first phase and another 18 added later. The work was conducted by a core group of 6 BTCV volunteers, although numbers periodically swelled to up to 15. Finally, a section of decking made from recycled plastic lumber and decking boards was added to the top of the hill, joining the steps.