The council was criticised for it’s ‘out of control’ spending on Devonshire Park at cabinet this week.
Lib Dem councillors agreed an additional spend of £4.4 million for the redevelopment at the meeting on Wednesday evening (March 21).
The creation of a first-class cultural, conferencing and sporting complex, known as The Devonshire Quarter, is on schedule to be completed in March 2019.
The scheme has seen the opening of new changing facilities for tennis players, a new irrigation system for the tennis courts and a new show court that will be played for the first time this summer, securing the future of the international tennis tournament, that attracts more than 45,000 visitors each year to Eastbourne.
Next week will see the start of steel frames being installed for the new Welcome Building that will provide conference halls, break-out and hospitality areas, and a fully accessible entrance to the Congress Theatre, that is currently undergoing a major refurbishment to install a new lighting bridge, replace old heating and air-conditioning systems and install 1,600 new seats.
The total cost to the council of creating The Devonshire Quarter will now be £48.4 million. In addition, there has been £5.6 million funding from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership and the Lawn Tennis Association.
Councillors also agreed for work to go ahead on the Winter Garden at a cost of £2.3 million.
This will include restoring the front of the building to its original façade, refurbishing the toilets, providing pedestrian access to the new Welcome Building, some electrical, mechanical and plumbing work and internal improvements.
When completed, the new cultural quarter will allow the council to compete for conference business worth around £10 million to the town’s economy and will create around 100 additional jobs across the economy.
But the news was slammed by Conservative councillor Robert Smart, who said the council’s spending on the project is ‘out of control’.
He said, “The £44 million budget contained a generous contingency of £6 million which has been exhausted to absorb some of the cost increase.
“To reduce the overspend it is proposed to savagely reduce the planned works on the Winter Gardens by two thirds (by £4 million – from £6 million to £2 million).
“Even ‘works to the toilets and redecoration of the building will be deferred and carried out from the regular maintenance programme’.
“What ‘regular maintenance programme’? We were told there were £10 million of outstanding repairs and maintenance costs to be covered by the original £44m budget.
“Who is to blame for getting the original budget so wrong? This project is out of control and does not give confidence for controlling a capital programme of over £150 million.”
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