THREE major Exeter building projects are to cost a total of £3.7 million more than previously budgeted.

The city’s new bus station, St Sidwell’s Point leisure centre and Edwards Court extra care facility were all constructed during the pandemic, with the city council saying they had “serious hurdles to overcome”.

A report to the council’s executive on Tuesday, November 29 revealed that, following negotiations with key suppliers and contractors, the bus station and leisure centre will cost £2.9 million more while Edward’s Court requires £780,000 of extra funding.

The added costs include more than £2 million of “covid settlement” payments, which the council says are extra costs associated with the pandemic.

Its report says: “The additional costs have been negotiated and are considered fair and reasonable by all parties,” while council leader Phil Bialyk said it would not have to borrow money to settle the bill.

The award-winning St Sidwell’s Point is the UK’s first Passivhaus standard, ultra-low carbon leisure centre, designed to save up to 70 per cent on annual energy costs, while the bus station opened in July 2021 after being visited by the now King Charles.

Previously estimated to cost a combined total of £54 million with the bus station, St Sidwell’s Point is forecast to go over budget due to highways works costing “significantly more than originally envisaged”, a change of building cladding material and fit-out works costing “in excess of the allocated budget”.1

Edwards Court, named after former city council leader Pete Edwards, opened in October.

It is the UK’s first super energy-efficient extra care scheme, combining accommodation with care and support services for people aged 55 and over.

Original funding of £14.2 million was approved in July 2018, but the extra spending includes offsite storage and parking, additional specification works and cost of the highways works.

Defending the overspends at the executive meeting, Councillor Duncan Wood (Labour, Pinhoe) said: “If anybody has tried to get anything done in the last few years, they know how difficult it is. They know how everything seems to cost a shed load more than you thought it would.

“So, looking at two percent increases against budget is amazing, frankly. It’s very, very difficult to get anything over the line at the moment. And, if you cast your minds back to when we were in 2020, getting your shopping in was difficult enough, let alone getting a building like that (St Sidwell’s Point) over the line.”

Fellow Labour councillor Emma Morse (Mincinglake and Whipton) praised Edwards Court, saying it is “incredible and we should be very proud of what we built.”

However, after the meeting, opposition councillors criticised some aspects of the projects, along with their cost.

Green councillor for St David’s Diana Moore, co-leader of the Progressive Group, said: “St Sidwell’s Point has won awards but has failed to regenerate the whole area as promised and the new bus station leaves coach passengers out in the cold.

“Labour really has to explain how they will pay for this extra bill as the council is facing a financial crisis over the next three years – sinking into a £6.6 million financial hole.”

Councillor Michael Mitchell (Duryard and St James) from the Liberal Democrats, also part of the Progressive Group, added: “Labour is in at the deep end with this final bill for St Sidwell’s Point and bus station which needs another £2.9 million.

“We have to remember Labour has already raised the budget by £2.3 million to £54.1 million in the last two years, and council tax payers will be repaying the £18 million loan for years to come.”

Members of the executive approved the extra funding, which is expected to be taken from existing budgets.

Ollie Heptinstall