30/11/2012 - Permalink

Quantum Leap in Shrewsbury to be discussed by council’s Audit Committee

Related topics: Leisure, culture and heritage

The Audit Commission has recently completed a report detailing its findings relating to the cost overruns on the Quantum Leap project in Shrewsbury, following concerns raised by a local councillor. 

This report, to be discussed by Shropshire Council’s Audit Committee on Friday 7 December 2012 at 11am, details these costs and how they have impacted on the council’s arrangements and financial transactions in 2011/12.  It is based upon council documents and explanations. 

The report proposes three recommendations for the council to consider when working on similar projects in the future, all of which have been taken on board and agreed by officers. 

Steve Charmley, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for Quantum Leap, said:

“Shropshire Council always takes learning away from any build project and this is no different.  We have taken on board the comments as part of the Audit Commission’s report. 

“We are extremely disappointed by the adjudicators’ ruling, especially as the design specification was developed by the architect appointed by the former Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council, prior to Shropshire Council coming into being.  However, we have accepted this decision.” 

Shropshire Council inherited the Quantum Leap project from Shrewsbury and Atcham Borough Council in April 2009.  Both the design team and contractor had already been appointed by the former authority, and work had started on site when the unitary council was formed in 2009. 

During its construction a number of difficulties relating to the costs and timescales of the project were experienced.  

The project itself was incredibly complex: the structure is a nine-metre arch at its highest point, with no straight lines or right angles.  Its 31 pre-fabricated concrete ribs each weigh three tonnes, and its construction had to overcome a number of constraints associated with the town centre riverside site, including environmental, archaeological, arboriculture and conservation issues. 

During the summer of 2009, problems occurred on the alignment of the ribs which did not follow the correct trajectory to complete the arch, and this had to be corrected.  This caused a delay to the overall project, which resulted in additional costs being incurred. 

The project was completed in March 2010, and since this time there has been disagreement between the contractor and the contract administrator regarding the causes of these difficulties. 

As neither side could agree, this was eventually considered by an independent adjudicator who, on 9 July 2011, stated that the delays and additional costs incurred while the structure was being built were due to an inadequate design specification, and that the council was ultimately liable.  The total additional amounts paid to the contractor were £410,000.  The cost of professional expert advice and legal fees in taking the case to adjudication was £115,000.