Birmingham & Black Country

How much is it costing to redevelop Wolverhampton?

Wolverhampton skyline as of October 2015 Image copyright iStock
Image caption Wolverhampton is undergoing significant transformation and investment say city councillors

How much does it cost to redevelop a city? In Wolverhampton the expected cost of three projects has more than doubled. But why, and who is footing the bill?

Labour-run City of Wolverhampton Council had allocated £24.9m to carry out three of the city's major redevelopment projects.

These projects now need an additional £37.1m between them to complete, taking the overall amount to be spent to £62m, reports published by the authority said.

Image caption The relocation of the city's market, from Market Square to the Snow Hill site in the Southside area of the city, was originally expected to cost £2.5m

Conservative leader Wendy Thompson, said the council was one that may be "careless in the spending of other people's money" and that the increase in budgets showed a "failure of the council's scrutiny procedures".

However, cabinet member for city economy, John Reynolds said the major investment will transform the city, "generating jobs and increasing footfall".

The council has not yet responded to a question about whether taxpayers will contribute to the projects' increased budgets.

Meanwhile residents are watching from the sidelines as to how the money is being spent. One student said the council should focus on its rough sleepers instead while another asked how can they say something is going to cost one thing and then it goes up by millions.

Melvin Prendergast, 75, of Warstones said "I have a son with learning disabilities and we've had to fight for years to get him what he needs. The council are cutting services everywhere but investing in grandiose schemes that don't really help people."

The station: 'Not fit for purpose'

In 2016, the council deemed the city's station "no longer fit for purpose".

Passengers had complained about its dated look and lack of facilities in comparison to Birmingham New Street Station which re-opened following refurbishment in 2015.

Image caption Work on enhancing Wolverhampton's train station has already begun

So architects drew up plans for larger platforms, more ticket barriers and improved shopping and café facilities.

It was initially due to cost £12m, but is now expected to cost a maximum of £19.9m after the plan for the increase was signed off in November.

So why the increase?

Image copyright Wolverhampton Council
Image caption Under the latest plans, there will be more space for retail units and café facilities, and work to demolish and simultaneously enhance the existing station is already underway

The council said that "unforeseen events" led to more being spent. The project did not have a "specific contingency budget" set for it while what was set was just "estimated costs", a report said.

It is not clear what these "unforeseen events" were, however in its report the council admits that a number of elements within the project will sit outside the building contract and the financial risk of these elements "has not been accounted for".

The station plans are also part of an "Interchange" programme, which includes the extension of the Midland Metro line.

This was to cost £51.8m when the initial budget was set in November 2016 but a year later, this had gone up to £81.8m. The council has given £16m to the Interchange programme so far, a report said.

Image caption The station plans are part of a wider "Interchange" programme, which includes the extension of the Midland Metro line within the city centre

A spokesman for the authority confirmed the additional funding for all its over-budget projects will be sourced from a "combination of additional grant monies, capital receipts from the council rationalising its estate, and borrowing".

"The estimated budget increase on each project" he said, "will not impact on the anticipated opening dates".

But one of the city's projects has already seen its opening date pushed back by two years.

Civic Halls: 'Could have been rebuilt'

Image caption The Civic Hall was first closed for refurbishment in late 2015
Image caption The cost of regenerating both the Wulfrun Hall and Civic Hall has more than tripled

The cost of regenerating the city's historic grade II listed Civic and Wulfrun Halls was expected to cost £10.4m in January 2016.

It is now anticipated to cost £27.7m more, with a new budget of £38.1m, and the halls are to open in 2020 instead of March this year.

Dennis Price, 67, of Tettenhall, said: "I think for the amount of time it's taken, they could have knocked both the halls down and built them again, especially as the cost keeps going up and up."

Image caption Dennis Price, 67, said the cost of the Civic Halls redevelopment is going "up and up"

In January, the council reported the 80-year-old building had structural issues that could jeopardise its future if left unattended.

"It is our opinion," the authority said, "that the project principally failed due to an unrealistic capital budget".

Image copyright David Bowie Tin Machine/YouTube
Image caption Over the years, the halls have hosted the likes of David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Diana Dors and Oasis

The Civic Halls were built and opened in 1938. They have hosted the likes of David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Diana Dors and Oasis.

Comedians Ken Dodd, Peter Kay and Jim Davidson, have also made appearances.

More than 1,100 professional boxers have been hosted at the Civic since 1943., including Sir Henry Cooper and most recently it hosted a nine-day long Grand Slam of Darts.

The halls are the "largest business in the Black Country's creative and entertainment sector" according to the city council, generating £4.3m a year for the local economy.

One of the authority's projects has already successfully opened, though its budget had almost doubled.

Market: Already opened

Image caption The relocation of the city's market, from Market Square to the Snow Hill site in the Southside area of the city, was originally expected to cost £2.5m

The relocation of the city's market, from Market Square to the Snow Hill site in the Southside area of the city, was originally expected to cost £2.5m.

It instead cost £4.9m and opened on 17 July.

Eunice Maybury, 75, of Sedgley, who visits Wolverhampton twice a week, said: "I do prefer where it is now, but I can't say I like the way it looks."

Image caption Eunice Maybury, 75, said she doesn't like the new design of the market

The authority said the relocation was "critical to enable the first phase of the £55 million Westside scheme to commence" which will see more of the city centre developed over the next four years.

Steve Evans, cabinet member for city environment, said it will prove a major asset to the city centre.

Image caption Melvin Prendergast, 75, described the council's projects as "grandiose schemes"

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