Cost of Next Wave swells by £568,000

CHECKS by a local man have shown the true cost of Bexhill's Next Wave seafront regeneration scheme to be more than £500,000 more than the the widely quoted total of £5.1 million.

John Lee, chairman of the Bexhill Alliance, found the discrepancy after challenging Rother District council’s costings for the project, which since its inception has provoked considerable controversy in the town.

Mr Lee said: “Leaving aside arguments over the scheme, the underlying concern of the Alliance has always been a perception of arrogance by councillors and the imposition of this scheme on residents without genuine consultation or the prior authority of an election manifesto.

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“Many feel that their councillors have not spoken up for them and that much of the council’s rhetoric on this subject has been disingenuous and full of ‘spin’.”

Mr Lee, of Southcourt Avenue, said he was prompted to investigate after a recent report in the Bexhill Observer that it had been decided not to re-build the kiosk on West Parade for financial reasons.

After trawling through committee minutes and other sources he checked his results with Rother’s head of finance, Robin Vennard, who confirmed the total approved costs for Next Wave as £5,668,000, ie £568,000 more than originally estimated.

Mr Lee said: “I think an additional cost of this order should properly be made public by councillors and not left buried in the small print of council proceedings.”

He added: “Of course the cost would have become known eventually, but crucially after the next election when the project is completed.

“Adding another £586,000 by stealth in this way is unacceptable and will, I think, be of great concern.”

The £5.1 million price tag hitherto affixed to Next Wave includes a £1 million grant from CABE, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, and £4.1 million drawn from Rother’s capital reserve.

The latter figure, says Mr Lee, must now be increased to slightly over £4.6 million to truly reflect the cost to council tax payers.

He has since written to council leader Carl Maynard to express his concern.

Mr Vennard, for Rother District Council, said: “The Next Wave scheme has made significant progress in the last few months and remains within the approved budget. The £5.1 million refers to the original bid to CABE for the scheme, based on very broad estimates.

“Once the grant was approved, detailed estimates were commissioned which, including the associated professional fees for the scheme, identified a cost of approximately £5.6 million. This formed the basis of the approved budget agreed by members for the scheme.”