Bill for Italian Gardens revamp rises to almost £3m

PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 April 2018

The Italian Gardens.

The Italian Gardens.

Archant

The revamp of Weston-super-Mare’s Italian Gardens has exceeded its original budget by more than half a million pounds, taking the overall cost to almost £3million.

The Italian Gardens.The Italian Gardens.

North Somerset Council has been forced to secure £501,000 extra funding from the West Of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) after it discovered it needed more cash than anticipated to pay for the ‘continental-style’ square.

The gardens were refurbished in 2017 after the council won a £2.48million grant from the LEP Local Growth Fund, but as the Mercury exclusively revealed in October – weeks after the square’s opening – the project would cost significantly more than expected.

Cllr David Pasley, North Somerset’s executive member for capital and transformation programmes, then assured councillors by email he did not ‘expect this to exceed’ £200,000.

But the Mercury can reveal those estimates fell well short of contractors’ invoices.

The council this week said ‘it was always anticipated’ the cost of the project ‘might increase’.

Upon the unveiling of the new-look Italian Gardens in August, councillors from across the chamber celebrated a new asset for the town centre.

But opinion among readers was split, with concerns over the cost and aesthetics aired in letters and on social media – though many welcomed the changes.

On April 18, the West Of England Combined Authority agreed to provide more cash.

A council spokesman said: “The Italian Gardens is a fantastic area offering Weston a growing events space which the local community and visitors can enjoy, as seen this weekend with hundreds of visitors enjoying the Weekend Of Wonders as well as Eat: Weston earlier this month.

“The original cost estimates were based on information available at the time to support a funding application which had to be prepared at extremely short notice in order to secure the lion’s share of the budget.

“It was always anticipated this might increase as the project developed to detailed specifications. All the work will be paid for by external funding and has come at no cost to the council.”

The finishing touches to the square and Spider Lane have been delayed due to the Royal Hotel’s expansion plans.

The council’s spokesman said it looks forward to seeing people enjoying the Italian Gardens as an events spacer throughout the summer.

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