'Excessive' cost of flood defence in Saffron Walden will be 'challenged at the highest level' by county councillor
PUBLISHED: 08:17 17 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:29 17 May 2018
Replacing part of the flood defences at the entrance to Saffron Walden's culvert could cost taxpayers more than £700,000 and an Essex county councillor says he aims to "challenge at the highest level the seemingly excessive level of charges for public works".
The replacement of the trash screen is part of a £2.7 million scheme to carry out repairs to a large flood defence structure which runs under the town centre.
The scheme will be funded by Essex County Council, the Environment Agency (EA) and Anglian Water.
Saffron Walden Town Council’s (SWTC) role in the scheme would be to maintain the replacement trash screen, which includes clearing debris.
A breakdown of the trash screen costs reveals that the bill for the screen itself is £34,390, while the construction costs are £252,560.
The cost for ‘risk’ is £314,250, design costs are £77,800 and other consultant costs are £45,320. Staff costs are £14,870.
The ‘risk’ cost, which is almost 10 times as much as the screen itself, was described by EA officials as a contingency budget in case of unforeseen circumstances.
In 2017 the town council highlighted that the trash screen blocked during heavy rainfall due to debris accumulating, increasing the risk of flooding through the town centre. The EA found that the trash screen was operationally deficient, falling short of requirements and, in consultation with the town council, it designed a replacement screen and secured funding to deliver the project.
Councillor John Moran, who sits on the Anglian Central Flood Committee [RFCC] as the Essex County representative, told the Reporter: “I first saw the costings for the trash screen aspect of the proposed works on Sunday evening and I have requested a full breakdown of those costs and I am seeking some justifications for the seemingly high level of those costs. I shall be taking this matter up with the chair of the RFCC.
“I intend to challenge at the highest level the seemingly excessive level of charges for public works such as these, I feel that on occasions the tax payer is not getting value for money.
“But I have stated to the town council that on this occasion I feel it is best if these works proceed to resolve this pressing matter of the repairs to the culvert and ancillary works as a large number of properties in the town require protection from the risk of flooding posed by any failure of the culvert system.”
A spokesman for the EA said: “The Saffron Walden Town Centre culvert scheme is a £2.7 million investment to repair the riparian-owned culvert and replace the trash screen at the inlet. The project would see a reduction in flood risk to over 110 properties.
“We must consider risks when reviewing a scheme and if there is uncertainty in achieving the objectives of the project. In order to manage this risk, it is common practice to set a contingency budget.
“Considering the location of the trash screen, within a live channel which is not easily accessible and is prone to high risk events (flash flooding), this makes the planning and construction of the works challenging.
“The current cost is high level and is currently being refined as the project heads into its final stage of development, with the scope being finalised and construction costs determined.”
The trash screen replacement was on the public agenda at the SWTC full council meeting on Monday however during the meeting the decision was taken to hold discussions in private.
The town council’s decision was the accept the provision of the trash screen in principle, subject to receipt of further information and details from the EA regarding funding.
They also asked the EA to attend a future full council meeting to fully explain and detail the proposed expenditure.