Trop gets the chop as council breaks rules

PUBLISHED: 14:00 01 January 2010 | UPDATED: 11:30 25 May 2010

NORTH Somerset Council may have to fork out thousands of pounds after failing to comply with European rules which resulted in the collapse of the Tropicana project.

NORTH Somerset Council may have to fork out thousands of pounds after failing to comply with European rules which resulted in the collapse of the Tropicana project.

Necessary purchasing requirements were not followed by the unitary authority and it may have to give out a hefty payment to developer Henry Boot.

Westonian David Puplett, of Clifton Road, became concerned over the council's negotiations and, after writing to officials at the European Commission (EC), his query caused an investigation to be launched.

By law the council should have put the Tropicana project out to tender across Europe by registering it with the EC, but as they failed to do this they have broken the rules.

After an 18-month investigation a letter from the EC was sent to Mr Puplett.

It said: "Following an assessment of all the elements in the file, the commission has decided to initiate infringement proceedings by sending a letter of formal notice to the UK government.

"It should have been tendered out by the council in accordance with the EC rules.

"The failure to carry out such tendering process constitutes a violation of these articles and principles."

Mr Puplett, aged 58, said he picked up on the discrepancy after reading several articles in the local and national press.

He said: "I know a similar case that happened in Surrey and the council had to pay out thousands of pounds to the developer.

"The council say that they had to halt the development of the Tropicana due to changes in the European rules but they haven't changed, it's just that it wasn't done correctly in the first place which is why they now have to backtrack.

"Had they done it properly in the first place this could have saved Henry Boot a lot of time, money and effort and it wouldn't be in the position it is now."

A letter has now been sent to the Government regarding this discrepancy.

A council spokesman said: "We are aware of the letter as are the Office of Government Commerce.

"We do not agree with the findings of the commission and normally would seek to challenge their findings.

"However as the Henry Boot development is not proceeding it would not be a proper use of public funds to pursue such a challenge.

"Any future procurement regarding the Tropicana will be done to conform with the latest EU guidance.

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