Middle Level reveal legal dispute that followed completion of �38million pumping station near Kings Lynn

IT may have appeared all sweetness and light when a �38million pumping station to protect Fenland from flooding opened last year, but it has been revealed the main developer lost money on the project.

Behind the scenes the acrimony spilled into a legal battle, won by the Middle Level Commissioners (MLC) from March who commissioned the St Germans pumping station near Kings Lynn.

Iain Smith, chief executive of the MLC revealed some of the background to the legal challenge when he appeared before a scrutiny committee at Fenland Hall.

Mr Smith told the council’s overview and scrutiny committee that the St Germans Pumping Station was a “very large project and there are always going to be lessons to learn from a project of this size”.

The chief executive said the contractor (he didn’t specify which one but principally they were Costain, Birse and Atkins), made a loss on the project and they had tried to claim that there had been a variation to the contract “which there had not”.

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Mr Smith said the MLC fought the case and won. He said they had been supported by DEFRA but due to the size of the case “we had to use a QC and not a barrister at much higher cost”.

Engineers worked for four years to build the new pumping station which opened in May last year.

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The MLC attended the scrutiny committee last month but the report has only just been published.

Councillor Will Sutton reported that MLC sold off their old offices for �225,000 (to Wetherspoons) whilst Councillor John Chambers stated that FDC pay in excess of �1 million to MLC in levies, and yet staff at FDC are on a pay freeze, but staff at MLC are not.

MLC chief executive Iain Smith stated that the pay award was agreed by the wages board, however the pay committee are fully aware of this point.

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