The straw built visitor centre on Hastings Country Park will form part of the Labour run council’s legacy to the town and will be ’emblamatic’ of the sustainable architecture of the future.
That was the view of Councillor Warren Davies when he spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting of Hastings Borough Council (HBC).
“The visitor centre will be a continual reminder of what the European Union did for our borough,” Mr Davies told the full council meeting.
“Yes it is innovative, yes it will be delivered, and it is part of a wider plan to show how a Labour administration thinks and learns,” Mr Davies told fellow councillors.
He says lessons learned will make HBC’s project management “effective and efficient”.
“Sometimes you have to take risks…” Mr Davies said.
In January it was announced the Country Park’s environmentally sustainable new visitor centre that has been built using traditional straw-build techniques will cost local council tax payers an additional £340,000 bringing the total cost of the project to over £1.1m – almost three times the original estimate. It was also revealed that HBC is also now faced with picking up 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.
On Tuesday night Labour councillors heaped praise on the project, Councillor Mike Turner said the new centre was a “great addition” to the Country Park which he described as a jewel in Hastings’ crown.
“With large projects things sometimes go wrong,” he said and pointed to the fact the centre would attract more visitors to the town.
Councillor Maya Evans, lead member for Natural Environment and Leisure assured members at the meeting that HBC’s officers were examining the issues that have both delayed the project by years and caused it to cost significantly more than had originally been budgeted. Those investigations, she said, will ensure the same cannot happen again.
Ms Evans says the council expects to take possession of the building in March with external works and fitting out to follow and she confirmed that the council is still in negotiations with the European Union about a further £108,000 grant that would go towards the latest overspend.
But for the leasder of the opposition Conservative group Rob Lee the new construction of the new centre has been a “total disaster.”
“When this project first came before the full council it was an exciting project, we talked about local school children visiting it to learn about their country park.”
He described the management of the project as a “sad state of affairs.”