City announces massive cost overrun on infrastructure project due to unforeseen circumstances

07:20 Friday 23rd January 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: An extra £4.5 million will be needed to complete the widening of the Fletton Parkway in Peterborough. It’s after soil contamination was discovered under the carriageway. The City Council will be asked to approve the additional funding at a Cabinet meeting on 2nd February. It would take the total for the project to £18 million. Roadworks to widen this carriageway started last February, and are scheduled to finish in May. The extra money will pay for the increased cost of dealing with contaminated soil, repairs to drainage, and some will also be spent on the protection of Great Crested Newts. Critics though say the problems could have been foreseen. Let’s say hello to David Harrington, who is an Independent councillor for Newborough in Peterborough. What do you think of this then David?
DAVID HARRINGTON: Good morning Dotty. Well I’m very concerned and frankly amazed that PCC have allowed themselves to be placed in a position where there appears to be no third party contractual obligations, and therefore it appears that the Council bear all of the risk on this scheme.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So just explain what you mean by that, what you think they should have done.
DAVID HARRINGTON: Well they should have appointed an overall contractor to make sure that all the preliminary investigations were done, site surveys. And that contractor should have been under obligation to make sure these things were done. And therefore, had there been any problems, it would have been down to the contractor to put these things right, rather than the City Council. I just find it amazing they’ve allowed this kind of contract to be signed.
DOTTY MCLEOD: This kind of contamination problems though, we understand very unusual.
DAVID HARRINGTON: Well frankly it’s unbelievable, given the history of that particular area, which we all know is adjacent to what was the biggest brownfield site in the whole of Peterborough, adjacent to the former Orton brickworks. That issue of contamination does not appear to have been factored in in any of the preliminary site surveys, or any initial soil analysis. The extra cost to the taxpayer seems to be around 30% of the cost of the whole scheme, which cannot be justified on the premise that the problem was totally unexpected, and couldn’t be foreseen. It just isn’t acceptable.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well let’s talk to Andy Tatt, who’s the Head of Peterborough Highway services. David, do stay on the line though. We’ll come back to you in a minute. Andy, it’s not acceptable. That is the claim from David Harrington. What do you say to that?
ANDY TATT: Yes good morning Dotty, and good morning councillor Harrington. Yes. Just to put this in context really and for your listeners on where this site is. The site is at the south west area of Peterborough, and it unlocks a growth area, Great Haddon. So when you come off the A1(M) from junctions 17 up to junction 2, major infrastructure project, biggest infrastructure project we’ve invested in in the city. very important. Obviously our strategic network to unlock growth, and for the greater city. obviously we’re the fastest growing city in the country ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: Yes. To be fair Andy, the debate isn’t really this morning about whether these works need to happen. It’s about whether these problems could have been foreseen, and how they’re now going to be paid for.
ANDY TATT: Yes. I just want to get that in context for your listeners, because obviously the scale of this project and what we’re doing here needs to be appreciated. Yes, regards the contamination, just to answer councillor Harrington’s point, we have nominated a single contractor. The single contractor and the actual cost of this scheme is all actual costs. So all the costs that we get through from it, actual costs. They’re not over and above, or we’re paying for something that we actually didn’t receive. The contamination, we had tests done beforehand as well. But this is extreme contamination. There’s actually fluorides, and this type of contamination, fluorides, is total dissolved solids in there, and organic carbons, that are totally unknown on these sort of projects. We undertook a project back in 2007/8 right next door to this, from junction 2 to 3, and there was no contamination of this sort found in that area.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Do you have insurance for things like this? Does that exist?
ANDY TATT: The thing is we’ve actually put in .. a bid in to DFT for that element. There’s £1.3 million of this £4.5 is connected with the contamination area Dotty, and we’ve actually put a bid in. And they are very sympathetic to our bid, because obviously this is very unusual. And hence why we’re waiting to see whether we get that allocated back to us. But the important thing is as well, this is all capital funding. We have £9.8 million of capital grant funding come in for this, massive investment to the city which was brought in. This appears is no relation to the budget deficits and like what we’ve got in the city for the £25 million. That’s all revenue. That plays no part in this. This is all capital funding, and it’s completely different issue. But it is the strategic network. There is basically when we found and got into the project .. it’s a bit like analogy really I’d say of you know although we done everything we can to sort of do site surveys and investigations a bit like you know the Time Team say, when you go in and you don’t know what’s underneath the ground until you actually open it up and the like. Do as much investigation you can beforehand, but until you actually go in on these major schemes. And these major schemes they’re not an analogy to sort of be potentially 30% over sometimes and that where they are. But we are actually paying for what we’ve got.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Andy let’s get David’s view on that. David, Andy says that they did as much as they could to foresee any problems, and they just didn’t with this one. They couldn’t spot it.
DAVID HARRINGTON: I accept that you know these things don’t always go according to plan, and you can do as much probably. But given the history, the local history, people of Peterborough know that most of Peterborough was built on waste coming from the brick pits. It was a good basic material, readily available, what we call brick bats. And they were used for foundations for many driveways and roads. And they was there available. Now of course times have changed, and regulations now don’t permit that kind of material to be used. So there must have been an underlying or should have been some kind of knowledge that this possibly was going to be the case, that waste from those pits, which was just virtually next door, was going to be in some way used. Now anyone who’s lived in Peterborough and remembers the brickyards remembers the acrid smell of sulphur that used to permeate the air. And we are aware that there was a lot of contamination in those days. Frankly we can’t keep going on as a city stumbling along, because wasting what is really money that is not available. Public funds are at zero, and this council seems to ignore its primary role of providing services and support to the residents, and is just acting like a developer to satisfy national statistics, to become the fastest growing city. It can’t go on like this. There has to be a reckoning. And I think this is what we need to do.
DOTTY MCLEOD: David I’m going to have to stop you there, because I just want to squeeze in one more question to Andy, because I know people will want to know the answer to this Andy. Just briefly, we know it;s going to cost more now. Is it going to take longer?
ANDY TATT: It’s not. We’ve programmed this in, and we’ve been looking at this all the way through. It’s scheduled to complete spring. We’ve got a schedule of May currently. So your listeners and travellers on that network, we continue with the two lane running through there, to keep disruption down to a minimum. We also apologise for any disruption. But you’ll see a magnificent infrastructure we’ll have on a legacy with three lanes either way through there. And again, this is again an issue where we’re investing to this city for the growth of this city, but also for the city as it is now.
DOTTY MCLEOD: And it will be finished in May.
ANDY TATT: It will be finished in May.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Andy Tatt, thank you for your time this morning. Andy is the Head of Peterborough Highway services. And you heard from David Harrington also who’s an Independent councillor for Newborough in Peterborough.