Contractor dispute raises fears over flood protection scheme

Flood prevention work in Stockbridge around the water of Leith. Picture: Greg Macvean
Flood prevention work in Stockbridge around the water of Leith. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THE city council was today said to be embroiled in a trams-style wrangle with the main contractor on the Capital’s controversial flood prevention scheme as costs increase and the project falls behind schedule.

Council chiefs are in talks with civil engineers Lagan Construction over spiralling costs on the Water of Leith flood prevention work after the bill nearly doubled in the last year.

Latest figures put the bill at £21 million, including consultants’ fees, and is up from an earlier figures of £11.5m.

An internal adjudication on the costings is understood to be under way. The process was said to be similar to the row between the trams contractors and the council over extra costs which halted work on the project for months.

But a council source said: “The adjudication that is going on at the moment is not going to suspend the work.”

Green councillor Nigel Bagshaw, who represents Inverleith, called for improvements in the council’s drawing up of contracts for major projects. He said: “There is an ongoing problem with the way contracts are drafted in Edinburgh and they need to be much tighter so the city does not enter into open-ended commitments.”

The first phase of the flood prevention scheme, from Stockbridge to Bonnington, is now not expected to be completed until next autumn, meaning an extra year’s disruption for hundreds of residents.

The two further phases – from Murrayfield to Belford and from Balgreen to Longstone – have yet to be put out to tender. But the council does not have enough money to pay the £65.9m cost of the rest of the scheme and there are fears it may not go ahead unless the Scottish Government comes up with extra funding.

Councillor Bagshaw questioned the scale of some of the works being carried out.

He said: “The scheme is a sledgehammer to crack a nut and comes at far too high a price in terms of monetary cost, environmental damage and the impact on the lives of those living next to the construction sites.

“My hope now is that the works will be completed on time so that life can get back to normal for the people of the Stockbridge colonies and Warriston.

“As phases two and three are unlikely to go ahead, we need to take a reasoned look at alternatives to protect people’s homes and ensure that they can get insurance for their houses.”

The council said it was in discussion with Lagan Construction Ltd over the level of additional costs for work carried out.

It added: “Any increase in estimated cost for phase one would result in the shortfall for phase two increasing.

“Cost certainly cannot be guaranteed at this moment in time and it’s likely that it will be at least January 2013 before an accurate figure can be reported.”

The Scottish Government said after meetings earlier this year it had agreed to consider additional funding for existing scheme when deciding the criteria for allocating undistributed funds for flooding projects.

Lagan could not be contacted for comment.