Felixstowe: £2m extra will have to be spent to finish seafront gardens restoration project

Work has been halted on Felixstowe's seafront gardens since summer 2013.

Work has been halted on Felixstowe's seafront gardens since summer 2013. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Community leaders have pledged to complete the restoration of Felixstowe’s nationally-important seafront gardens – despite the price of the project rocketing to nearly £4.8million.

The original contract for the work – which stopped last year just a few months into project due to a dispute with contractors – was £2.81m and relied on Heritage Lottery (HLF) funding of more than £2m.

Suffolk Coastal council has now agreed to plug the £2m funding gap because it says the project is important to the regeneration of the resort and says completing it will be an investment in the prosperity of the town.

Council leader Ray Herring said: “Although we cannot go into the detailed figures, because of commercial confidentiality, the reality is that the original estimate was too low.

“We have now reassessed some technical aspects of the design and gone through a complex procurement process, which has led to extra expense over the last 18 months, so the current budget for the project is just under £4.8m.

“This means that we are effectively matching the funding provided by the HLF and are now in a position to continue the procurement process to appoint a new contractor to complete the restoration work on these iconic gardens as soon as possible.

“We are already heavily committed to this project and, importantly, we are in the position to afford this extra, one-off expenditure from our available resources, so can fund the project without placing an extra burden on the local tax payer.

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“We looked at all the options available to us. Scrapping this important project was not an option, either financially or morally.

“We would still face a bill of nearly £2.5m and would continue to have unrestored gardens, which would be increasingly expensive to maintain and would be partially closed to the public.”

Councillors have agreed that a comprehensive review of the project and how it was handled will be carried out once work is completed.

An independent adjudication into the dispute with the original contractors found that the council was at fault – with the report saying the authority was in breach of contract and was not entitled to cancel the work. The council could be sued for damages.

Work stopped in summer 2013 and parts of the gardens have been fenced off since. It is hoped work can restart this autumn.