Suffolk County Council bosses insist work on Lowestoft's Gull Wing bridge over Lake Lothing remains on time and on budget
Work on the Gull Wing bridge in Lowestoft remains on time and on budget, project bosses have insisted, after it was added to the council's risk register.
Work has begun on the £145million structure over Lake Lothing, due to be completed in summer 2023.
Suffolk County Council has added the scheme to its risk register as a matter of course because it is a significant road infrastructure project, with main risks associated with the project considered to be costs escalating or the timetable being missed.
But council chiefs say the scheme is monitored closely and remains on time and on budget.
Conservative council leader Matthew Hicks said: "The Gull Wing is such an important and ambitious project for the council, and so it is key that it has top priority in the council’s auditing process.
“This is a very complex project and comes with risks, most notably of course Brexit and Covid and these are causing uncertainty for every business in the country.
“The budget allocated by Cabinet, including risk funds and contingency estimated that the cost of delivering the bridge at £145.8m. We’re at a very early stage of the project and we have the Brexit and Covid risks to deal with, so we will be keeping a very close eye on this, but at the moment we are within the projected budget.
“My team reviews all the risks on a weekly basis and I have regular updates from my senior officers to make sure we keep on top of this. We have an incredibly detailed approach to risk management for the project.
“Anyone that’s been near the construction site, knows that the Gull Wing is progressing well. It is still on schedule to open in 2023.”
Costs for the scheme have already increased once - in August last year it was revealed that an extra £34m had to be budgeted as a result of cost increases from delays caused by the 2019 General Election and coronavirus, as well as compensation for businesses and land costs.
However, the council's chief finance officer Lou Aynsley told last week's audit committee that 'there is an adequate budget for where we are at this point in time' following the most recent project board meeting.
The council also said it has an 'early warning' system in place between the contractor and project team with weekly reviews to catch problems at the earliest opportunity.
Andrew Stringer, leader of the opposition Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group, said: "Naturally with a project of this size there are inherent risks, in terms of cost and time overruns, that can be brought on by materials and labour shortages, and it is correct to add this project to our risk register.
"The Conservative administration all along has stated from the inception of this project that they will deliver on time and on budget, in fact at the briefing that followed the launch of this project, they even suggested we may deliver under budget.
"We have stated all along that our changed relationship with Europe could have impacts on our existing projects, and this should be taken very seriously.
"This project will already have a large annual ongoing cost to the people of Suffolk to just maintain the structure, we owe it to them that these costs are limited."
Sarah Adams, leader of the Labour group said: “The SCC Labour group have supported the construction of a bridge in Lowestoft as far back as 1971.
“We are concerned about the length of time taken to agree this major infrastructure project, the timescale for implementation and cost.
“I’m glad to hear Cllr Hicks confirm that the costs are under tight control and we would like a final cost and timetable to be published as a matter of urgency and courtesy to the residents of Lowestoft and Suffolk.”