OPPOSITION councillors have warned that the collapse of Dawnus could be very expensive of Wokingham Borough Council.
On Thursday last week, we revealed that the company constructing Peach Place had gone into administration, placing doubt on the finishing date.
Since then, the council has been working to find an alternative contractor to finish the works on the project, which had been due to open last November. So far, only GAIL’s Bakery and Waterstones have been able to open.
Other stores, like the already announced Cook and vinyl record store Beyond The Download, as well as the townhouses and keyworker apartments are not yet completed.
On Friday, signs for Toutley Road-based firm CTS were posted around the site, suggesting that the company is stepping into the void caused by Dawnus going under.
The firm’s website says that it offers “a comprehensive service for construction related projects including reactive maintenance, building extensions and alterations coupled with design and build projects throughout Berkshire”.
Cllr Lindsay Ferris, the Wokingham Liberal Democrat leader, held urgent talks with the council last week to find out what is happening.
“It sounds like this could be very expensive with the potential for significant delays. It will have a knock-on impact,” he told The Wokingham Paper.
“It’s a bit like the House of Commons: a total shambles.”
He added that the Liberal Democrats felt that it was the council who was taking the risks and will have to shoulder additional costs to the delayed project.
“The council have to find another construction company to finish the work, and at short notice, so the costs are going to be higher as a result,” he explained.
“There is bound to be a delay in finishing the work as it will take time to organise another company. Some of the delays will be short where the work is nearly finished, but other areas it will take longer. Months. The Council will also need to deal with the Administrator.
“So a project that was already running late, will be even later and cost more. My estimate it that it could cost an additional £1 million may be more, but time will tell.”
He added that the council’s contingency budget will cover much of this but once spent it can’t be used elsewhere.
“The Council will therefore in effect have £1 million less to spend on services and other projects from now on,” he said.
“This confirms the view I have had for a long time, namely that Wokingham Borough Council – the council tax payers of Wokingham Borough – are taking the risks of the Regeneration Project, not the construction companies.
“The costs have increased year-on-year and now stand at about £150 million.
“Peach Place is about 10% of the costs, so fortunately the risk is lower than if anything had happened to the other projects. However we are in uncertain times.
“The Peach Place project has run late now for many months. I have not seen any clear recovery programme, it has just been drifting along and now bang Dawnus have gone bust.”
And Cllr Ferris also had concerns with the way the Executive councillors have run the scheme.
He said: “While this can happen to anyone, it does clearly show the cavalier approach to the Regeneration. When we raised our concerns several years ago, we were ignored and treated like children. The arrogance that I have mentioned many times is also within this project.
“I equally have little or no confidence in the Council and the Commercial Business Fund where they plan to spend £100 million over the next 12-18 months. It is our – the council tax payers’ money – not theirs.”
Conservative councillors have been approached for a comment.