ARGOS ‘Regeneration’: New Challenges
- – an “In My View”article by NIGEL WARD, offering the very latest information on the subject of Councillor SIDDONS’ strongly-opposed ‘flagship’ project – the so-called ‘regeneration’ of the former ARGOS building on Newborough, Scarborough.
On Monday 6th September 2021, at 2:00pm, a meeting of SBC Full Council will take place – at Scarborough Spa, where members will apparently feel significantly safer (from the dreaded pandemic) than would be the case in the claustrophobic confines of the Council Chamber.
The Agenda for Monday’s meeting includes a number of interesting Items; for the purposes of this article, I shall concentrate on just one – Item 9(iii) Motion in respect of the project to redevelop the former Argos building in Scarborough Town Centre.
This concise challenge to the wisdom of Councillor SIDDONS’ flagship development demonstrates that some Councillors, at least, have been paying close attention to the rapid rise in the costs of construction materials. Bravo!
Even more encouraging is the fact that a considerable number of Councillors, of all bar one political stripe, have felt the need to share with me a well-circulated ‘poster’, as well as (and quite separately to) an absolute scorcher of a Question to Council, lodged by one of Scarborough’s leading businessmen – Mr James CORRIGAN – who has now challenged the prudence of the ARGOS ‘regeneration’ in light of escalating construction costs. It is noteworthy that Secretary of State Robert JENRICK and Scarborough & Whitby MP Robert GOODWILL are amongst the recipients:
From: James Corrigan
Date: 31 August 2021 at 13:15:00 BST
To: Democratic Services <email@example.com>, StJohn Harris <StJohn.Harris@scarborough.gov.uk>
Cc: Robert Jenrick <Simon.firstname.lastname@example.org>, Robert Goodwill <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Cllr.Alf.Abbott@scarborough.gov.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Cllr.Alex.Bailey@scarborough.gov.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org, Cllr.Eric.Broadbent@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Stewart.Campbell@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.John.Casey@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.David.Chance@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Bill.Chatt@scarborough.gov.uk, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, cllr.Guy.Coulson@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Cllr.Will.Forbes@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Glenn.Goodberry@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Simon.Green@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Jim.Grieve@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Neil.Heritage@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.David.Jeffels@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Janet.Jefferson@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Phil.Kershaw@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Hazel.Lynskey@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Helen.Mallory@scarborough.gov.uk, email@example.com, Cllr.Joanne.Maw@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Rich.Maw@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Jane.Mortimer@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Eileen.Murphy@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Roxanne.Murphy@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Theresa.Norton@scarborough.gov.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Cllr.Peter.Popple@scarborough.gov.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org, Cllr.Paul.Riley@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Neil.Robinson@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.Subash.Sharma@scarborough.gov.uk, Cllr.email@example.com, Cllr.Michael.Stonehouse@scarborough.gov.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Cllr.Sue.Tucker@scarborough.gov.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Subject: QUESTION TO FULL COUNCIL 6 SEPTEMBER 2021
AGENDA ITEM 9(iii) PROJECT TO REDEVELOP THE FORMER ARGOS BUILDING IN THE TOWN CENTRE
I have seen significant price inflation in general building materials and labour in relation to a substantial development project that my Company has been undertaking confirming the reports in the national media. The prices have increased by over 30% across the board. It is reasonable to conclude that such a price increase will be passed on by the developer to the Council, by way of an increase in the price of the overall development.
I would suggest that this is a change of circumstances requiring the project to be reconsidered by Council that was referred to by the Monitoring Officer in reply to Cllr Jeffels question at the cabinet meeting on 16 June 2020.
It is significant to note that this Council is reluctant to recommence its meetings in the Council Chamber (indeed there has been no such meeting since that held on 28 February 2020). The officers continue mainly working from home. In both cases the reason for not returning to the Town Hall is due to the risk that the members and officers perceive from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whilst it is acknowledged that the vaccine has mitigated the risk, it is clear from the daily reported statistics that the risk remains and the number of cases is increasing.
Those statistics showing the infections, hospitalisation and sadly deaths are expected to increase as the school holidays finish and students return to their Universities. We have also been told by our experts that the virus continues to mutate and is likely to evade the vaccine at some point. With these perpetual mutations when will the impact on costs and labour supply come to an end? The ongoing advice is to take responsibility for our own actions, continue to practice social distancing, hand sanitise and wear masks in shops, public transport and crowded places.
We must all thank those key NHS workers who are risking their own health on a daily basis in dealing with the pandemic. The areas of highest risk of spreading and catching COVID-19 are the Student population and inside the NHS hospitals treating those who are suffering the worst symptoms of this terrible disease.
With this background please
(A) Explain the logic of situating these two high risk groups in the same accommodation building that can only serve to increase the possible risk of cross contamination with this highly infectious disease.
(B) Confirm that further to the resolutions at Cabinet on 16 June 2020 the Council has contractual agreements in place with (i) the proposed tenant (The Futurelets Limited) to Lease (guaranteed by Coventry University); (ii) the funding agreement with the developer; and (iii) Buccleuch Property (Scarborough) Limited to sell the site to the Council.
(C) As the price of the development works is likely to increase by around 30% please confirm if the additional consideration will be met from further borrowing.
Please acknowledge receipt of this e-mail.
Clearly, in the context of Councillors who are afraid to come into close proximity with one another in the Council Chamber, Mr CORRIGAN’s concerns regarding nurses sharing living-space with students must strike a chord. (I say nothing about the reputations, historically, of either nurses or students when it comes to the intimacy of their respective social lives in halls of residence. Fnarr, fnarr!).
As to the rapidly escalating costs of construction work, a glance at the industry index tells its own tale – costs are sky-rocketing and will increase in tandem with the rapid rise in transportation costs:
SIDDONS’ flagship is looking increasingly like a rusty old bucket with a hole in it.
What interests me most, however, is that neither the Report of the Portfolio Holder for Corporate Resources (Councillor Janet JEFFERSON [Ind.]) nor the Addendum to that Report so much as mentions the ARGOS ‘regeneration’ project – which suggests that the SIDDONS administration has been unable to contrive even the flimsiest attempt to brush aside these entirely valid objections – added to which we may now venture to include the problem of the prodigious number of ‘staycationers’ whose vehicles have turned the Bottom End into a never-ending car cruise (I thought there was a ‘law’ against that).
Readers may recall that in July 2019, when the ARGOS project first received the ‘green light’ from (deliberately?) ill-informed Councillors – closely followed by the Director of Legal threatening Councillors with the prospect of life imprisonment for the hapless loon who ‘leaked’ the “TOP SECRET – Highly Confidential” documentation to the Enquirer (see above) – Councillor Liz COLLING [Lab.] spoke of her confident anticipation that Planning Consent for the ARGOS ‘regeneration’ would be achieved in September of that year.
Never happened. Two years down the road, and all the indications are that it never will – shades of the Leader’s much-trumpeted but ill-fated East/West Local Government Reorganisation pipedream. What a woefully inept administration this has been.