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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
David Humphreys

Calls for public hearing over soaring costs of Festival Gardens site

A call has been made for a public hearing over the increasing costs of developing a major south Liverpool site that could provide thousands of homes.

Cash-strapped Liverpool Council is expected to have to spent an additional £7m on the development of Festival Gardens where costs will balloon to £60m before work on building any homes has even got underway. 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 report released last year showed costs have spiralled significantly beyond this.

A motion has now been put forward to Liverpool Council by Liberal Democrat members Richard Kemp, Andrew Makinson and Mirna Juarez, calling for interim chief executive Theresa Grant and council officers to publicly address residents’ concerns. The motion calls upon the council to note “with dismay the escalation in costs associated with the remediation of land at the former Garden Festival site on Riverside Drive, L17.”

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It added: “The project now faces a financial crisis which raises serious question marks over whether proposed housing and community facilities can actually be delivered as planned. Local residents have been left confused and anxious by the many twists and turns surrounding this site over the past decade and they are now deeply concerned that the problems surrounding this project will have a detrimental impact on the area and on their quality of life.”

In a bid to quell fears, the three Liberal Democrat councillors used the motion to ask Ms Grant, cabinet members and council officers to hold a public meeting “without delay”. The motion said: “Such a meeting would be of benefit by providing an opportunity for residents to have their questions answered and to put forward their views, enabling the council to reassure the public and glean useful information about local needs and concerns.”

During a meeting of the council’s audit committee last month, Chris Ridland, council planning officer said excavation and remediation on site is "90% complete" and should be finished by spring. 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."

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