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Council demolition failure

Now this is interesting. Firstly Mr McMahan doesn’t say where his figure of £750,000 comes from – is this what CCC have actually paid the contractors? – but I really like his idea that money generated from the demolition could have been re-invested in the Pier.

Secondly, the Council spokesman (Wormtongue, as I think of him) seems to be having trouble with numbers when he says “… it was discovered that the amount of asbestos in the building was understated and its removal was more problematic than first envisaged. The council has incurred no extra cost …”.

In June of last year, the local press reported that the cost of demolition was £243k more than the budgeted £425k because of the asbestos revealed by a structural survey. As Cllr Vickery-Jones said at the time:

This is a huge increase but there is no alternative.

Hmmm… “no extra cost” or “a huge increase” – which do you think best describes £243,000?

So our Council got a fixed price deal and handed over the value of all the scrap to the contractors, at a time when most metal prices seemed to be rising steadily (apparently due to demand for raw materials in China pushing up prices globally).

Are any of CCC’s bean-counters going to figure out how much we lost out as a result? I doubt it. They won’t bother to find out how costly this mistake was, and as a result will probably repeat it.

Counting the cost of pier demolition

Pulling down Herne Bay’s Pier Pavilion has cost tax-payers £750,000 and left the town with nothing in return, claims former city councillor Vince McMahan. He says a clause in the demolition contract means contractors have been allowed to strip the pier of valuable scrap metal and pocket the cash. The dad of three stormed:

“It beggars belief. It is a slap in the face to the people of Herne Bay that firstly the cost shot up to £668,000 because the council didn’t realise there was so much asbestos there. And then the deal means the company can keep the scrap.

The whole building was clad in aluminium, which is worth a lot of money now. With scrap metal prices soaring, the council should have insisted the money was recycled to, say, the Pier Trust or ring-fenced for the town’s regeneration.”

Council spokesman Rob Davies insisted:

“We held a competitive tender for the demolition contract to ensure we got the best possible price. The salvage and sale of recyclable materials such as metal, steel and timber are being carried out by the contractor but it is important to stress that any money made from this was included as savings to the council in the tender price.

It also makes sense on a practical level because, if the council had kept these materials, it would have incurred substantial transport and storage costs. The council let the contract on a maximum price basis, where the risk of any cost increase was transferred to the contractor.

This decision was a very good one as, when the building envelope was opened, it was discovered that the amount of asbestos in the building was understated and its removal was more problematic than first envisaged. The council has incurred no extra cost but has allowed the contractors extra time to deal with these difficult issues.

We are forecasting that the demolition works will be completed by mid-April and that the post-demolition works will be completed in time for the summer season.”

The row erupted as the council was blasted by former Pier Trust bosses for failing to back the group. Former treasurer and accountant Jason Hollingsworth, 40, from Victoria Park, who stood down from the Trust three months ago, said in a joint letter with former chairman Graham Cooper:

“In our view, the trust has never been effectively or adequately supported by the council. Indeed, that is at the core of why so many trustees have stood down. Throughout 2011, the Herne Bay Pier Trust participated in a joint working group with Canterbury City Council but from our experience the key difficulty was getting clear and consistent answers from the council as to its plans, ideas and funding.”

Former chairman of the trust’s business group Michael Khoury said:

“We worked out that a pier platform reaching the old pier head would cost £11 million, not £60 million as some claimed. The council has spent more than half a million pounds just knocking the building down with nothing left. Where’s the vision?”

Pier campaigner Kim Hennelly asked the city council’s deputy head of culture and enterprise Dawn Hudd outright about the council’s intentions and received this reply:

The council does not have any current intention of rebuilding the pier itself. Our corporate plan pledges to improve the seafront and the current pier platform. The Herne Bay Pier Trust was set up so that a business plan could be developed by the trust working with the people of Herne Bay.

The council is supporting this process by helping the trust to develop its business plan during this year and deliver events and activities on the pier platform for the 2012 season. We expect the trust to pursue rebuilding or extending the pier if it considers that to be right.”

thisikent 23rd Mar 2012

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