THE HEAD of Bridlington’s regeneration team has defended the amount East Riding of Yorkshire Council has spent on consultancy fees for the Area Action Plan regeneration document, after opponents described the £2.1 million bill as ‘disgusting’.
John Lister, who heads the council’s Renaissance team, has stressed that the consultancy fees - which have totalled more than £2.1 million since 2004 - represent value for money and says the town has benefitted from around £60 million worth of investment because of the work.
This comes after the mayor of Bridlington, Coun Michael Charlesworth, criticised the amount of money spent by the council - which needs to make overall budget savings of £43m over the next three financial years - asking “how have councillors let this go on for more than 10 years?”
New figures reveal that since July 2005, £1,984,834 has been paid to consultants Atkins Ltd - the main contractor who sub contracted other firms to produce work. Jacobs UK Ltd have been paid £142,047, by East Riding of Yorkshire Council since May 2011.
Mayor Charlesworth, who sits on Bridlington Town Council said: “It’s nearly 10 years now that this has been going on, their plan to regenerate Bridlington.
“To my eye nothing has happened in that time to make Bridlington a better place. There was a town charter in 2004 but nothing from that appears to have been implemented. It is disgusting that nothing is happening.
“Who is exercising budget control? And what have elected councillors done to keep an eye on the expenditure?”
Despite the criticism, John Lister believes that the consultancy fees have provided value for money for the town.
He said: “This money has paid for a lot of work. To develop a comprehensive Area Action Plan to deliver real change in Bridlington, that has been approved by a Planning Inspector, there is a great deal of specialist work that needs to take place.
“The truth is that the council, like most other local authorities, do not have the specialist staff to produce this work.”
Mr Lister says that specialist retail studies, flood risk assessments, sustainability and habitat appraisals, transport plans and harbour and marina designs make up a large chunk of the consultancy bill, and were needed to get regeneration in Bridlington off the ground.
“The AAP itself was prepared not just by planners, but by economists. They have not just contributed to the document, but to the planning of Bridlington. This has contributed something like £60 million of investment in Bridlington.
“There was £19 million from Yorkshire Forward, £10 million from the European Regional Development Fund, £3m from the Department of Culture Media and Sport for the Spa Gardens, around £7m funding received for the transport plan and the Park and Ride. The council itself has invested around £22 million over the same period.
“None of this would have been available to us had we not had the Area Action Plan moving along.”
Mr Lister also said that developers were now more likely to invest in the town once the regeneration project had begun, because specialist work that they would have to carry out had already been undertaken by the council.
The Area Action Plan was deemed ‘sound’ by a planning inspector in August after a protracted planning inquiry which saw two public hearings held at the Spa.
Inspector Sian Worden, who chaired the hearings, passed the AAP but removed plans to build a hotel, a multi-storey car park, houses, shops and restaurants at the harbour top, saying that development could jeopardise the port’s operation.