Construction work at site in Cambridgeshire town high street facing delays

Boarded up gap site between two buildings in Wisbech High Street.
-Credit: (Image: Google)

Building works on the site of a former warehouse and butcher's shop have been put on hold after the amount of materials need was "significantly underestimated". Construction work at the site on Wisbech High Street began last July but increased building costs mean it is now facing delays.

Fenland District Council has said it is hoping to limit any increases in cost and the time it takes to complete the work. The project aims to develop 24 High Street into a new shop and flats. The site used to be home to a four-storey 18th century building before it collapsed around 30 years ago.

The district council received £1.9million funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the work to regenerate the site. The authority was also given a grant of £210,000 from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority towards creating six one-bedroom affordable rented flats in the redevelopment.

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When work started last year the district council said it expected the project to take a year-and-a-half to complete. At a meeting of the district council’s cabinet this week (May 20), Councillor Chris Seaton, portfolio holder for transport, heritage and culture, said the project was facing delays and cost increases.

A report presented to the meeting said the amount of brickwork needed was believed to have been “significantly underestimated” by the district council’s original quantity surveyor. It said this will likely mean the district council will face increased costs for more materials and extra time needed for the work to take place. Cabinet members were also told that bad weather along with some other delays meant the expected completion date had already slipped from October this year to November.

Cllr Seaton said: “Work continues on 24 High Street build, revisions to the laying out of the building have caused recent delays and the fit of the new building into the gap has a tolerance that has to be adjusted. These along with considerations around the amount of materials required are likely to add time and cost to the project. The council’s quality surveyor is working hard on our behalf to ensure that any increase in the cost or time is limited.”

The meeting also heard that there were expected to be cost increases at its other project in the town at 11-12 High Street. The district council is currently looking at its options to build new flats at this derelict site. Cllr Seaton said a revised design for the redevelopment had been completed to create a smaller footprint of the building.

He explained that the number of flats in the new building was also proposed to be increased from 12 to 16, by making them all one-bedroom flats or one-bedroom studios. Cllr Seaton said one-bedroom flats were in “high demand” in the town. However, despite reducing the footprint of the building to try and make it cheaper, Cllr Seaton said the expected costs were still high. He said: “Despite these changes the expected build costs remain very significant and officers are now value engineering the revised design to reduce build cost to a realistic level.”