The £67.4million worth of Northumberland development projects put on hold due to pandemic

Covid-19 has affected a range of infrastructure projects in Northumberland, with millions of pounds-worth of spending being rolled into next year.

Thursday, 15th October 2020, 4:24 pm
Northumberland County Council County Hall at Morpeth

An update on the county council’s capital programme was presented to the Monday, October 12, meeting of the authority’s corporate services committee.

It stated: ‘A number of capital schemes have been delayed as a result of lockdown and the furloughing of staff by both external design consultants and contractors.

’Some major projects did continue on site, albeit at a slower rate due to social-distancing measures and a reduction in the workforce on site.

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‘The council has fully supported contractors returning to site as soon as it was safe to do so with the necessary Covid-19 risk assessments in place and is now looking to accelerate projects wherever possible.’

The report explained that almost £24.5million was spent up to July 31, including £7.3million on transport schemes, £10.2million on school buildings including new schools at Morpeth and Ponteland, £1.5million on leisure facilities and £915,000 on the council’s housing stock.

However, an overall underspend of £67.8million is being forecast across the 2020-21 capital programme, comprising £67.4million re-profiling (£73.7million re-profiling from this year into next and £6.4million in the other direction) and £400,000 underspend.

Cllr Nick Oliver, the cabinet member for corporate services, said: “There always is a re-profiling, because these capital projects require planning permissions and land acquisitions, so it’s hard to programme them accurately, but with Covid, it’s become even harder.”

Here are some of the schemes where spending is being shifted from the current year into 2021-22:

:: £2.8million on the renewable energy programme, although a number of schemes are progressing, including at County Hall and Alnwick’s Willowburn Leisure Centre, albeit delayed. A separate report will be presented to cabinet soon on those schemes which are now not proceeding and to identify alternative replacement schemes for approval;

:: £500,000 on developing two new children’s homes at Pegswood and Hadston, as planning permission has been delayed due to restrictions on public consultation;

:: £4.5million for the overhaul of the Seaton Valley Federation of Schools, with the outline business case still awaiting approval and no works envisaged in the current financial year;

:: £10million for the new schools in Hexham, with phase one – the new school buildings – targeted for completion and handover ready for use in September 2021. The demolition of the old school buildings and the new bus park will form phase two, due for completion at the end of April 2022;

:: £1million for the refurbishment of County Hall, although spending of £3.5million is still forecast for the current financial year;

:: £800,000 for the adult learning hub at the former Lindisfarne Middle School site in Alnwick, where we reported recently that the planning application has now been submitted;

:: £1million for new fire service vehicles, with a delay on delivery of the orders of six to eight months;

:: £1million for the redevelopment of Ashington North East Quarter as phase two has been removed from the contract and will be completed in-house, with programming taking place around the construction of the new cinema;

:: £700,000 in relation to Blyth Sports Centre. The scheme commenced on site in July with completion due by July 2021;

:: £458,000 for Newbiggin Sports Centre with work on site anticipated to commence in April 2021;

:: £5.5million for Berwick Leisure Centre based on the estimated cash-flow of the project with completion targeted for November 2022;

:: £2.8million in relation to the construction of the Blyth Relief Road. The scheme continues to be developed and is currently funded from the revenue budget due to uncertainties around the external funding and timing of delivery.

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