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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
David Humphreys

'Airy fairy' projects slammed as Liverpool opposition leader criticises Festival Gardens scheme

A South Liverpool housing site that is costing the city council millions of pounds before even a single property is built is an example of “airy fairy” ideas that need to be reigned in, according to the council’s opposition leader.

Cash-strapped Liverpool Council is expected to fork out an additional £7m on the development of Festival Gardens where costs will rise to £60m before work on building any homes has even begun. Remediation work at the contaminated Festival Gardens site in the south of the city is already budgeted to cost a staggering £52 million before a housing developer even moves in to start building homes - but a new report shows costs have spiralled significantly beyond this.

Cllr Richard Kemp, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, told a meeting of the authority’s audit committee his "real concern is that the project got off to a bad start" and everything since has been an attempt to recover from it. Chris Ridland, council planning officer said excavation and remediation on site is "90% complete" and should be finished by Spring.

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He added that the "most significant matter" encountered on site is a 10% increase in material found that needs to be removed. It has put on a "significant cost" to the project and a delay of six months.

The officer said it wasn't a project the council "took on lightly" and it had conducted a "robust" assessment of the site. Cllr Kemp, who had requested a report into the site, wasn’t impressed and said there had been "fundamental errors of judgement at various stages because systems of the council didn't work."

He added: "Above all else officers need to calm down the fantasies of councillors when they come up with airy fairy ideas." Mark Bourgeois, interim city director, said Festival Gardens remains a "significant site" that will attract "quality developers".

He said the council recognises the need for additional facilities on the site, not just homes, after concerns were raised about how a school might be incorporated. Among the other major projects under the microscope of the audit committee was the sale of properties at Tunstall Street.

A report is expected to be delivered back to the committee in March next year outlining how the council will respond to legal action launched by contractors the Flanagan Group in relation to monies held by the local authority over a dispute regarding the state of completed properties. This could include litigation of its own by the council.

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