CAMPAIGNERS FIGHTING a £13M coastal road scheme on the Isle of Wight have this week rounded on the lead council offi cer after linking him to Scarborough's controversial coastal defence scheme.
Strategic director for the environment Derek Rowell is involved in the project to stabilise a coastal stretch of the A3055 Undercliff Drive that collapsed after a landslip in 2001.
But campaign group the Undercliff Defence Committee (UDC) is unhappy with Rowell's involvement. It is threatening to apply for a judicial review of the scheme.
Rowell was director of technical services when Scarborough Borough Council was investigated by the Audit Commission over escalating costs on the coastal defence scheme at Castle Headland.
It discovered that the design brief for this and four other sea defence contracts had been 'unlawfully' awarded to High-Point Rendel.
The council was found to have breached EU procurement law by not putting the work out to tender (NCE 16/30 December 2004).
UDC is incensed by the choice of High-Point Rendel as consultant on the Isle of Wight scheme.
'Rowell has been obstructive rather than helpful, ' said UDC campaigner Barbara Wright.
But Isle of Wight head of engineering services Stephen Matthews defended Rowell.
'The scheme commenced long before Derek Rowell joined this authority. Every request for information has been met with a positive response from my staff.' Matthews added that Rowell joined the council after HighPoint Rendel was hired as Isle of Wight's consultant.
The project will see trees removed to make way for a major drainage scheme. It is hoped this will dry out the underground streams that caused the original landslips.
Another part of the road would be realigned further inland from the fault line.
UDC claims that lowering the groundwater would damage water supplies from a natural spring at St Lawrence and could also cause subsidence to their properties.
It also claims that felling more than 500 trees would damage wildlife in area of five designations including an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Matthews said testing showed that the St Lawrence Spring and local properties would be unaffected. He added that the scheme had been approved by Department for Transport and had the support of English Nature.