The cost to Bath and North East Somerset Council of building a 13-pitch traveller site on the Lower Bristol Road in Bath has escalated to over £2.5 million.
The new figure is contained within the Liberal Democrat-run Council’s budget plans for the forthcoming year, and represents a £750,000 increase over the original total of £1.8 million.
The project’s rising price tag has drawn criticism from opposition Conservative councillors, who have slammed the authority’s ruling Liberal Democrats for failing to keep a lid on costs. Conservatives have pointed out that, at over £190,000 per plot, the traveller site is likely to be one of the most costly per pitch in the country.
The Council was recently awarded £750,000 by the Homes and Communities Agency towards the cost of the scheme. However, instead of using this money to reduce the Council’s contribution, B&NES has added the sum to the total budget for the project to help cover the increasing costs.
Part of the Council’s explanation for the rising cost of the project is put down to the fact the authority previously failed to factor in the cost of the land, which B&NES has to budget for despite already owning the site, as well as higher than expected costs to develop the site.
Conservatives have questioned why the amount of money needed to deliver the project is so high, and have argued that if the Liberal Democrats had a better grip on the cost then some of the cash could be used for other capital projects such as highway maintenance, road safety schemes or affordable housing.
B&NES Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Tim Warren, said:
“I think residents will question why the costs of this project are escalating so much. The previous £1.8 million figure was already a large amount of money to be spending on this, and we had been assured by the Lib Dems that this price tag would come down if the Council could secure a Government grant towards the cost.
“Yet instead, because B&NES hasn’t kept a lid on costs, the £750,000 grant is being added to the total cost, not being used to reduce it.
“Of course the Council has a responsibility to identify suitable land which can be used as traveller sites, and the Lower Bristol Road site clearly needs to be formalised and brought up to a proper living standard as soon as possible. But councillors also have a duty to ensure that taxpayers’ money is being spent prudently, and if the cost of this project were kept down then the money could be used for other capital projects such as highway maintenance, road safety schemes or affordable housing.
“We are therefore urging B&NES to drill down into these costs as the current price £2.5 million, or nearly £200,000 per traveller pitch, seems exceptionally high.”