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'A costly lesson' - Council agrees to scrap combined £5.5m projects

PUBLISHED: 15:10 23 August 2019 | UPDATED: 15:11 23 August 2019

North Norfolk District Councils Cabinet. Left to right: Greg Hayman, Richard Kershaw, Sarah Bütikofer, Eric Seward, Karen Ward, Andrew Brown, Angie Fitch-Tillett, Virginia Gay and Nigel Lloyd. Picture: NNDC

North Norfolk District Councils Cabinet. Left to right: Greg Hayman, Richard Kershaw, Sarah Bütikofer, Eric Seward, Karen Ward, Andrew Brown, Angie Fitch-Tillett, Virginia Gay and Nigel Lloyd. Picture: NNDC

NNDC

Councillors have warned that lessons must be learned following the collapse of two major schemes in the north of the county.

John Rest, leader of the Independent group at North Norfolk District Council Picture: MARK BULLIMOREJohn Rest, leader of the Independent group at North Norfolk District Council Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

North Norfolk District Council cabinet members have agreed to pull the plug on two costly projects set in motion by its previous administration - the Egmere Business Zone and Cromer Tennis Hub.

Both projects, which would have seen a combined investment of around £5.5m, had ended up in troubled waters through various complications the council had not anticipated.

Members of the cabinet unanimously agreed to halt both projects, with councillors across the political spectrum warning there must not be repeat failures.

Between the two projects, more than £500,000 of public money has been spent, with the council left having to find ways of mitigating for the losses.

Nigel Dixon, councillor on North Norfolk District Council. Picture: NNDCNigel Dixon, councillor on North Norfolk District Council. Picture: NNDC

In both cases, councillors were critical of the level of risk assessments carried out before decisions were made, which is something it was agreed needed to be addressed.

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Sarah Butikofer, leader of the Liberal Democrat-led council, said: "We need to be much more challenging with risk assessment in future and make sure we have them all bottomed down.

"This is incredibly important as this is public money."

John Rest, leader of the Independent group on NNDC, called for a cross-party working group to be set up to identify how the risks of the projects had not been identified sooner.

Conservative councillor Nigel Dixon added: "This is a costly lesson in risk management and control - particularly with the tennis hub. Had certain pieces of information been made available I feel a different decision could have been made."

The tennis hub project, which would have seen £3.3m invested in a new sporting facility on land at Cromer Academy, stalled in part due to a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the Cromer Lawn Tennis and Squash Association.

Mr Dixon said the possibility of this situation had not been considered by officers.

However, while the committee agreed to scrap the sports centre element of the project, smaller investments in other tennis facilities across the district will be honoured.

And while the overall Egmere scheme has been put on ice, it was agreed the site near Fakenham would retain its enterprise zone status should potential investors come forward.

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