Multi-million-pound city-centre scheme 'a major disappointment'

THE St Albans city centre s massively-overspent safety and enhancement scheme was described as, a very major disappointment by a leading councillor this week. Cllr Mike Ellis, the district council s Environment Portfolio Holder, hit out at the Herts C

THE St Albans city centre's massively-overspent safety and enhancement scheme was described as, "a very major disappointment" by a leading councillor this week.

Cllr Mike Ellis, the district council's Environment Portfolio Holder, hit out at the Herts County Council project as St Albans Cabinet once again discussed what was to be done about the Chinese granite paving in St Peter's Street which has become cracked and stained since it was laid.

Cllr Ellis said it was bad enough that control of the finances had been lost bringing the scheme in at more than £4 million but then it was followed by the use of light-coloured Chinese granite in St Peter's Street which was clearly unsuitable.

He added: "What we have seen recently is a major break-up of parts of St Peter's Street."

Sport and healthy living portfolio holder, Cllr Sheila Burton, described the area between Marks and Spencer and BHS as "definitely substandard".

She said: "There are long scratches across the surface and cracks across the surface of the stone. Some of it seems to be crinkled and rubbing off for some reason. It looks as though the surface is being rubbed off.

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"In common with everything else which has taken place on this project, it's under-performing. We have heard of the massive overspend. Overview and scrutiny on the county council came to the conclusion that the project had been poorly managed and now we have a surface which is not up to the standard you would expect.

"The district council has to keep this clean and in my view it is not possible to clean this surface properly and it is wearing quite badly."

The cabinet agreed not to proceed with one option that has been put forward - providing a surface sealant to the paving. They accepted the high pressure cleaning prior to the coating would weaken the grouting between the slabs and loosen them which could lead to cracking.

But they agreed that the granite paving should continue to be pressure washed on a regular basis to keep it at an acceptable standard and as the estimated cost for the next five years is £33,300 they are withholding it from the £100,000 they agreed to pay the county council towards the cost of the overall scheme.

Council leader, Cllr Robert Donald, said: "This is probably not the end of this sorry and difficult saga but I do thing this is the right way forward at this moment.

"Sealing the paving slabs is not going to improve the appearance or make them more fit for purpose."

St Albans resident Vanessa Gregory, who has been instrumental in pushing the council over the state of the granite, said after the meeting that saying the paving was not fit for purpose would not help and the council had good grounds to insist that as the paving was faulty, it should be replaced.

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