What’s a £13 million overspend on Ely bypass? Mayor James Palmer (Tory) and Councillor John Williams (Lib Dem) clash over cost
- Credit: Archant
Mayor James Palmer – the former leader of East Cambs Council -says he makes “no apology” for pushing to get the Ely Southern Bypass complete despite a £13million overspend and a delayed opening to October.
“Always with any project the longer you delay it the more it will cost and we could have sat around twiddling our thumbs and just thought about it for the next five years,” he said.
He was speaking on the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire breakfast show after a Lib Dem councillor had claimed the overspend was avoidable and he feared for future projects in the county under the mayor’s control.
Work began on the £36million bypass in January 2017 and the road was expected to open by late summer 2018.
However, the county council said “tricky conditions” including a floodplain and working near a “national heritage site” meant costs spiralled.
Speaking on the Dotty McLeod show, Councillor John Williams who is lead member for economy and environment, said: “This was avoidable.
“As leader of East Cambs District Council, Mayor Palmer was critical of the time taken to build the bypass. Because of that pressure the project panel failed to properly test the design of the viaduct.
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“It does not bode well for other big civil engineering projects that the mayor is pushing for.”
Cllr Williams said: “This is a unique bridge and this sort of design has not been tested in the Fens before. If it had been tested then we would have gone for a different design that could have been built quicker or managed the route so it did not go across the river that has also added to the cost.
“We are talking £13million that Cambridgeshire council tax payers have got to fund when that money could have been spent on our deteriorating roads and footpaths.
“It may have cost us more but I don’t think it would have cost us what we are now facing.
“We need to plan for the future and we have to maker sure projects are properly tested to avoid these massive overspends.”
But when Mayor Palmer was quizzed about the cost increase and delay he said it was “unfortunate” but didn’t mean that it wouldn’t be worth it in the long run.
He explained: “I have pushed very hard for this bypass to be built.
“Our economy has suffered horrendously because the lack of action with this bridge. But if we listen to the Lib Dems we will never get anything done – their proposals for this site was a ludicrous, high polluting deep underpass that would have cost more.
“I think it’s unfortunate and we have to look very clearly contracts are led.
“I make no apology to pushing to get this bypass done and finding a solution to the misery of travelling around Ely in a morning.
“We need to look at the processes we went through and why there was a problem with the civil engineering here that has cost more money. But it does not mean to say it will not be worth the money in the long run.
“We need to look at cost compared to benefit. There is an unfortunate issue in this; however, the most important thing in her is getting the infrastructure that this part of Cambridgeshire deserves.”