Friday 23 March 2018

Old Beecroft refurbishment

When the old Beecroft Art Gallery (opposite the Cliffs Pavilion) was threatened with demolition I was pleased to campaign for its retention. Instead of a block of flats we have still the sight of a beautiful old building, a piece of heritage rescued from the wrecking ball. I paid my part in this victory for common sense, and whilst I was not alone in campaigning for its preservation (and listing) I do take some pride in its still here today existence.

I was also pleased to hear of plans to repair the building and put it back into use. I support the arts locally, and am pleased with plans to restore the building and to use it for artists’ studios,

However, I am a little shocked at the sums involved. I remain to be convinced that this represents value for money to the taxpayer who is ultimately footing the bill.

The projected costs are eye-watering:

Design:                                             £80k
Design contingency:                       £44k
Construction:                                   £682k
Construction contingency:            £34k
Other:                                               £35k

This give a grand total of £875k.

This seems excessive. For instance, £80,000 (and potentially £124,000) to ‘design’ an already existing structure! Does it really cost that to re-imagine painted walls and new carpets?

Why the enormous sum for construction? It is already built. I know that some remedial work will be needed, not least to fix the apparent subsidence, but really? It makes one’s mind boggle.

Whatever the costs I hope local, Southend, labour is used. I also wonder whether the contracts will be awarded to companies now run by former council employees.

I think we need a little more detail on what these enormous sums will actually result in, and transparency too.

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St Luke's Voice Winter 2018/19 edition