One of the iconic structures of the English Riviera is getting an overhaul.
Work is being carried out on the vast aviary net at Living Coasts.
Clare Rugg, Living Coasts Operations Manager, said: "We are starting a rolling program to replace sections of the net over the next 10 years, until all the panels are done.
"Living Coasts is in a great spot right beside the sea, but it does mean we have to face storms head on! The net has stood up well to the elements - not just the rain, wind and cold but also the unseen threat of ultra violet rays from the sun which can weaken the netting fibres."
The canopy at Torquay's coastal zoo and aquarium is held aloft on 35 masts ranging in height from 2 to 22 metres. The surface area of the net is 5,500 square metres, which is 59,000 square feet or nearly 1.4 acres. The net creates a volume of 50,000m3 or 1.8 million cubic feet of free flight.
The net was installed by Vector in 2003 and is inspected and serviced regularly by Base Structures, from Bristol. A team of four trained technicians are replacing a panel 16.5 metres by 18.75 metres with an area of 310 square metres.
How will the work be done? Project Manager Fraser Shirley explains: "Our trained and qualified rope access technicians will go up to the mast headrings and the shackles that hold the ropes supporting the net panel perimeter. These ropes will be de-tensioned and disconnected from the top cleats and re-connected to lower cleats. This needs to be repeated on all four masts.
"The new net panel will then be hauled up on a pulley system and laid out across the existing net. It will be attached to new steel cables for a rough fit and then secured with double stitching every 150mm. Once the new net has been fully stitched, the technicians will climb along the cables to cut out the old net."
The work, including a full inspection survey of the aviary, should take five days to complete, weather permitting.
There are 14 roof nets in total at Living Coasts, as well as 27 wall nets and 3 internal dividing nets. For more information go to www.livingcoasts.org.uk or ring 0844 474 3366.