Posted: 11.02.21 at 15:05 by The Editor
HOURS before Thurrock planning councillors are being asked to give the green light to the new designs for Stanford-le-Hope's rail station, a call has been made for caution and a further 'pause for thought' before any new decisions are made.
The long-running saga of the botched railway station project goes back several years and is currently running well behind schedule and massively over its original budget.
The project was stalled by the council at the beginning of last year as they wanted to 'pause and reflect' on what had gone before - and they paid an advisory company £590,000 to come up with some new ideas.
That has resulted into the project being split into two halves - one the railway station side of the scheme and the other, what to do with the car park and inter-transport hub on the other side of the road.
Tonight (Thursday, 11 February) the planning committee will be asked to give approval to the new designs for the station - which is likely to be followed by the start of rebuilding.
However, the plans for the other side of the road remain very much in their infancy and on Tuesday night, at a meeting of the council's transport overview and scrutiny committee there was considerable concern over them - and the possibility of another cost overrun.
The council's assistant director for transport infrastructure, Anna Eastgate, told members that there was a defined 'budget' envelope for the work - which members at earlier meetings been told is set at not more than £20 million by the council's portfolio holder for regeneration Cllr Mark Coxshall.
Ms Eastgate said that should the work look likely to bust the budget that it could be ‘value-engineered’ to bring it back on track.
That has prompted Labour councillor Martin Kerin, who has been a fierce critic of the scheme's mismanagement, to ask if it would not be better to wait for the project as a whole to be defined?
“If we are going to value-engineer retrospectively, that might be a little hard if work has already got underway. Which is exactly what happened when the council went ahead with demolishing the existing station like a bull in a china shop and then had to stop and rethink, undoubtedly wasting significant amounts of money.
“We don’t want that to happen again so why not wait and deal with this as one project and balance any cost changes across both sites?
“The revelation that the former Daybreak Windows site could potentially be used for housing also calls into question the whole project.
"We were told that the original purchase of the site was needed to 'restart' the botched scheme. Now, we find out that, in reality, the council do not know what to actually use the land for. The whole situation is a shambles.
“We can now see why there has been a veil of secrecy over this bungled project. If this is to be truly 'one project,' then we need to view both sites in tandem. And that includes planning permissions.
“As recently as May 2020, we told that both sites were needed to rescue this failing project. The time has come to view both sites, side by side.”
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