Felixstowe: Gardens set to remain ‘a mess’ until next year

Out of bounds - Felixstowe's seafront gardens.

Out of bounds - Felixstowe's seafront gardens. - Credit: Archant

Renovation work on a resort’s seafront gardens is unlikely to restart before next year.

By the time new contractors are appointed and ready to move on site in Felixstowe it could be nearing the time when the £2.76million scheme was due for completion.

It is up to a year behind schedule now, and tenders for a new contractor have yet to be issued.

Suffolk Coastal District Council is refusing to issue any new information on the situation and is locked in negotiations with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which is providing more than £2m towards the cost of the work, over how the situation should be moved forward.

The HLF will decide and approve the process.

Because of various technical matters, the district council is unable to simply go back to the second lowest tendering company and appoint them as the new contractor.

It has to start the tendering process all over again – though it is hoped this can be fast-tracked as those submitting bids are likely to be some of the same companies as before.

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The council began legal action against P Casey (Land Reclamation) Ltd, who had started in the spring on the project to restore the resort’s nationally-renowned Victorian and Edwardian seafront gardens to their former glory, during the summer after a contract dispute.

After independent legal assessment, last month the council terminated the contract for the restoration work because of breach of contract.

Cabinet member Geoff Holdcroft said: “It is disappointing that we have been forced to terminate the contract, because we had hoped to find a positive solution to this situation.

“However, we need to move on and focus our efforts on the procurement process to identify a new contractor who can complete this important restoration project in the heart of Felixstowe’s seafront.”

P Casey has now removed their portable offices, compound and machiney from the site.

Some metal fencing around work areas has been moved but most remains in place for health and safety reasons, restricting public access to the gardens as work has started, but which have been described by residents as “a mess”

No details have been released of the nature of the dispute – a cause of frustration to residents.

Questioned on the situation, particularly the money spent so far and whether there was enough funds in the pot to complete the project, at this month’s town council meeting, mayor Jan Garfield, a Suffolk Coastal councillor, had to admit she knew no more than residents.

She said: “You will have to ask Suffolk Coastal – even as councillors we do not know the answers.

“Even those on the cabinet have no extra information except the statement issued by the council.”