Dear Councillor Ross,
Sincere thanks for your detailed reply to my concerns. I have some follow up questions which will help me to understand things in a bit more detail if you would be so kind as to provide some more information.
The information I had was from minutes of meetings held at the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust. The minutes state that the study requested was into the refurbishment costs versus new build. The resulting scorecard has to be seen to be believed. If that’s all it took to arrive at the decision, serious questions need to be asked as to the procedure. They might as well have flipped a coin.
In any event, it was not made clear to members of either the Trust Board Sub-Group or the Lochore Meadows Advisory Group that the proposal was to catch up with general repair and maintenance for a cost of £750’000. I think if that had been explained, there would have been serious questions asked regarding this failure to provide basic upkeep on such a valuable Council asset and then dump it on the trust to take care of.
Minutes also state that subsidy into the park excluding Golf and Outdoor Education was between £400-£500’000 per year, with the total figure being around £1m. I think most of us would like to know where all that money went every year if the level of neglect allowed on the main visitor centre amounted to £750’000. The Outdoor Education Centre and the Golf Clubhouse have also been seriously neglected over the last 30 years, and had they been maintained over those years, we might not need to spend such an extraordinary amount from the shrinking budget during these times of austerity.
Moving on to your Quantity Surveyor, Raymond Johnston; Raymond attended the meeting with yourself and members of the panel and stated that he had a fully costed Bill of Quantities drawn up for the Meedies building which costed the renovation at £1.8m. I challenged Raymond at the meeting as you know, but Raymond was adamant that his book of figures would stand up to any scrutiny.
You criticise my use of other buildings as an example of what can be achieved in terms of value for money, but now it turns out you are claiming that the Meedies visitor centre can be costed using the figures obtained from an old primary school in Glenrothes which was a much older building, in a much more serious state of disrepair. Can we at least agree that this practice of comparison has its flaws, however, I remain baffled at how Highland Council can produce a new building for £1400/m2 yet in Fife it’s £2600 with no foundations or new services required.
The figure of £750’000 for repairs over the existing building would equate to £1200/m2. £1.8m for renovation equates to £2800/m2. It is worrying that these figures can be waived through with no second glance.
You state that Property Services were asked to show what could be produced for £1.2m. I don’t think that’s an accurate representation of what really happened. I think the trust had a plan in place for a building costing £1.3m but the funding application failed and Grant Ward has stepped in to move things along with the cash in hand from Alex Rowley’s original £1m pledge. Hence why we’re now looking at a budget of £900’000 for a Portakabin and £100’000 for fitting out and furniture.
On the matter of submitting warrant figures prior to tender, do you consider it wise to publish your budget and then ask for firms to tender? The very brief five week window for returns coupled with the requirement to have the buildings completed in time for the new season, some say May elections, surely meant there was a justification there to inflate the price, which obviously was the case as all 7 tenders came in over budget. This error has resulted in an unnecessary cost to the public fund in my opinion. Who takes responsibility for this?
I have to disagree that this project uses a traditional procurement approach. The government website states that creativity should not be stifled through rigid design requirements. Had a more general tender been put out, with a more generous timescale for the creative process to take place, we may have had 20-30 firms submit a variety of designs and budgets to choose from. The process Fife Council used was backwards and the result is an insult to Scottish Architecture. A Carbuncle Award is surely being etched with the words “Lochore Meadows Visitor Centre – Fife Council 2017”.
I realise this might be insulting to Gavin Turner; however I understand his brief was to produce a “budget” design. Nonetheless, there is a requirement by Visit Scotland for the entrance to a visitor attraction to be attractive to visitors. (The clue is in the name.) Seeing this on the way in will surely make visitors wonder if they have arrived at HMP Lochore. There is certainly no sign of wow factor and no tourism website will be in any rush to gloss their pages with the sight of two dreary, black boxes.
The 40% savings figure I suggested was from the modular design builders association, who are obviously keen to promote their method over traditional on-site building. I thought it was reasonable to suggest a 50% reduction in construction time coupled with a 60% reduction in design costs with no input from an architect required, saving on their fees would result in a 40% saving overall. With the additional compromise of having to accept the design limitations of modular, it seems like a fair assessment.
Your assertion that there is no cost benefit to this method will surely horrify the proponents of the industry not to mention architects who will be queuing at the foodbanks soon if these boxes take off on any scale. It horrifies me that these pre-fabs might make a roaring comeback and another generation will have to endure their ugliness.
In closing, I welcome your challenge that Fife Council costs will stand up against all other local authorities in Scotland. I shall undertake research to confirm it and report back to you with my findings in due course.
Thanks again for your response, and I look forward to your reply.
P.S. Sport Scotland are not exactly overjoyed that the new building using their £83k, due to be completed in December 2015 still hasn’t been started yet. Just so you know.