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Felixstowe: Suffolk Coastal could be sued for breach of contract over spa gardens project

PUBLISHED: 19:26 30 April 2014 | UPDATED: 19:26 30 April 2014

slb 014 Felixstowe gardens 1

slb 014 Felixstowe gardens 1

Sarah Lucy brown

A council which stopped the work on the £2.76million restoration of Felixstowe’s nationally-acclaimed seafront gardens has been told it breached the contract – and could now be sued for damages.

Felixstowe  Spa gardens Felixstowe Spa gardens

It is three years since the National Lottery agreed to provide £2.2m towards the scheme, a major part of plans to regenerate the resort – and the project should have been completed in time for this summer.

But not long after work on the project started last year, Suffolk Coastal and contractors P Casey (Land Reclamation) Ltd became embroiled in a dispute over progress of the scheme with the council eventually terminating the contract, claiming the company was in breach of contract.

However, a leaked copy of the independent adjudication into the dispute has now blamed the council – saying that the authority was in fact in breach of contract and was not entitled to cancel the work.

The 70-page document – obtained by the Bent Hill and Seafront Area Residents’ Association – says both the company and the council should share the £31,687, plus VAT, adjudication cost.

It is understood Suffolk Coastal has already shelled out £16,436 on legal fees.

The decision notice says the termination of the contract was “invalid and ineffective” and Casey is “entitled to claim damages for breach of contract to include damages for loss of profit and overheads”.

A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal said: “As we publicity stated at the time, Suffolk Coastal District Council was extremely disappointed when it had to terminate the contract for carrying out the renovation work on the Seafront Gardens Project in Felixstowe. However, at the time, we felt we had no other option.

“As far as we are concerned, the contractual issues surrounding the termination of this contract are still on-going and confidential, so it is unfortunate that someone has chosen to put part of the adjudicator’s decision, out of context, into the public domain.

“This is an extremely complex case and negotiations between the parties are still continuing.

“No doubt when the matter is concluded, the council will carry out a full review.

“However, at this stage, whilst these matters are still active, we cannot comment on the case.”

No-one from Casey was available to comment yesterday but a spokeswoman for the company said a statement was being prepared following the adjudication in favour of the firm.

The project aimed to restore the resort’s listed Victorian and Edwardian seafront gardens to their former glory, including shelters, water features, paths and planting, along with the inclusion of new 21st century features like a modern clifftop shelter, heritage trail and interpretation boards.

Schoolchildren from all the town’s schools also worked on the design of the project.

Councillors say they have been kept in the dark over the details of the dispute which led to work being stopped last summer.

Mayor Jan Garfield, a district councillor, said at a public meeting when quizzed on what had happened: “You will have to ask Suffolk Coastal – even as councillors we do not know the answers.”

Labour group leader Mike Deacon said yesterday: “We have not been told anything – not even on a confidential basis.”

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