East Herts District Council’s (EHDC) Executive approved proposals this week (Tuesday, 6 September) to bridge a shortfall in the budget that had arisen at the Castle Park Improvement Project in Bishop’s Stortford.
The impacts of Covid-19, increases in material costs and changes to European trade – including supply of goods and labour – meant tender prices were far higher than anticipated. Additional income has been identified and some cost reduction achieved through a value engineering process, but this still leaves a balance of £350,000 to be jointly funded by the councils
The Executive this week agreed to the sale of Bishop’s Park Community Centre to Bishop’s Stortford Town Council (BSTC), securing the EHDC contribution to reinvest in Castle Park whilst retaining a valued local facility for community benefit. The Town Council has confirmed that this transaction will not affect the use of the centre in any way.
This means finances are now secured to deliver all aspects of the development, including new footpaths and link bridges, improved access to Waytemore Castle, major refurbishment of Markwell Pavilion, a new community café and terrace and development of open spaces for use by young people.
Part of the re-development includes the skate park at Sworder’s Field and it recently came to light the contractor was not working on site and, after a period during which they were impossible to contact, has now advised that they are unable to complete the works. The councils have therefore taken the only available option, namely, to end the working relationship and undertake a competitive procurement exercise to source an alternative contractor to complete the works.
That process should take around eight weeks to complete and given the timescales it can take contractors to mobilise, it is hoped works will be back underway by the end of the year. An update on exact timescales will be given as soon as we are able to share details; completion of the half pipe and parkour areas, which are relatively simple, will be prioritised within the new programme of works. The rest of the Castle Park programme is unaffected.
Speaking on behalf of East Herts Council, Executive Member for Wellbeing, Cllr Eric Buckmaster said:
“I am delighted we have been able to find a mutually agreeable solution that enables East Herts Council to self-fund its contribution toward this exciting development and bridge the budget gap.
“The transformation of Castle Park, the plans for which have been developed and shaped in consultation with residents and the Friends of Castle Park, will deliver a space in the heart of town that opens up new walking routes, creates new community spaces and will benefit residents and visitors to Bishop’s Stortford for many years to come.
“Whilst the delay to the skate park is beyond our control, please be assured that we will do all we can to ensure this element of the project is back on track as quickly as possible and will give further updates as soon as we can.”
Speaking on behalf of Bishop’s Stortford Town Council, Chief Executive Officer James Parker said:
“It is great news that funding is now secured to bridge the budget gap and finances are in place to deliver all aspects of the development. Behind the scenes we are doing everything possible to get the skate park completed as quickly as possible. The redevelopment of Castle Park is very important for Bishop’s Stortford, and the Town Council is fully committed to delivering it for our residents.”
The Castle Park Improvement Project in Bishop’s Stortford is supported by funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery Community Fund. For further information on the development visit www.eastherts.gov.uk/castle-park
The Executive report and details of the full agreement between BSTC and EHDC can be viewed on the EHDC website