The Country Park’s “brilliant new environmentally sustainable community facility,” that council officers say will, “become a major attraction for people from Kent, Sussex and beyond” will cost local council tax payers an EXTRA £340,000 bringing the total cost of the project to over £1.1m – almost three times the original estimate.
Papers published from last week’s meeting of Hastings Borough Council’s (HBC) cabinet show that councillors committed to the additional cash injection that is required just to finish the project – already running years behind schedule – and also agreed to meet the £40,500 annual running costs of the new centre. In the original plan running costs were supposed to have been met from grant funding sourced by the council’s partner in the project Groundwork South.
Mike Hepworth, HBC’s Assistant Director Environment and Place told councillors last week: “The people of Hastings will have a brilliant new environmentally sustainable community facility,” and he predicted that it will become a major attraction for people from Kent, Sussex and beyond.
“…it will be a great public asset to the town.”Councillor Andy Batsford
These latest increases on top of extra funds the council agreed to pump in to the project in 2018 mean the new centre is costing nearly three times the original estimated cost when the project was first muted in 2014, before being given the green light the following year.
Commenting on the latest overspend Nick Shute says: “No wonder they wanted to keep these figures a secret, not exactly a vote winner are they?
“Where do they think they will get the money for the running costs? The whole project is an abuse of their power, perhaps those that are so proud of this pet project can donate some of their salary to pay for it.”
Councillor Andrew Batsford, who is a member of HBC’s cabinet says: “The world is divided in to two types of councils those that build and push a town forward and those who will do nothing…
“I’m proud of this development it will be a great public asset to the town. The strong decision of the termination of the key contractor (SIA Design and Build) was the right decision as it was jeopardising the whole revolutionary project. But taking those bold decisions meant that some of the fixed costs baked in with the primary contractor were not honoured so costs have gone up.
“Grants have been applied for due to the ground breaking construction methods for a building this size so hopefully that will reduce the costs.
“Public buildings are not cheap you only have to look down the road at Rye’s new centre now in the millions and ours is I would say superior.
“All in all not ideal to say the least but I stand by the development and the great public asset it will be.”
Some observers have also questioned Mr Hepworth’s assertion that the centre will, in itself, attract people from pointing out that in March 2015 when the planning committee approved the original plan the report to planning committee members said it was not expected the visitor centre would be a destination in its own right, it said: “Although the visitor centre may attract more footfall than the existing centre, it is not envisaged to be a destination in itself which would attract a significant increase in traffic.”