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Scarborough Coastal Defence Scheme: what went wrong

Client: Scarborough Borough Council Contractor: Edmund Nuttall Consultant: High-Point Rendel Cost overruns and public disquiet about this coastal defence project led to an investigation by local government watchdog the Audit Commission. The report was shocking in its condemnation of the council.

'There is a compelling case for bringing to the attention of the public what I consider to be significant shortcomings in the way the council managed the project and failed to fully protect the interests of local and national taxpayers, ' said district auditor for North Yorkshire, Mark Kirkham.

Worse still, it discovered that the £2.4M consultancy contract had not been tendered according to European Union procurement law, rendering it unlawful.

The scheme, which began in summer 2002 was expected to cost about £26M but the auditor's report placed outturn costs at nearer £40M.

The massive escalation was attributed to ground conditions being far more variable than the original site investigation suggested, forcing the council and Nuttall to undertake a more thorough second investigation.

Noise also disturbed residents at local hotels and forced working hours to be limited to between 7am and 11pm. Costs soared when the project timescale was extended by 12 months.

More recently the Sogreah designed Accropodes used to protect the coastline have begun to crack and break up. Following months of fruitless discussion with both Nuttall and High-Point Rendel, the council has hired Danish consultant Cowi to find out what went wrong. This study is set to cost another £145,000.

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