Road had a future

By Paul Wilkinson

Friday, February 28, 2014



From Paul Wilkinson, Ryde:

The recent demise of the Undercliff Drive is all the more regrettable for being the direct responsibility of our own council, the administration that was removed in last May’s election.

When it took office in 2005, it inherited a scheme which was designed to extend the life of the road by several decades through, among other things, management of the Undercliff water table. In addition five separate sites had been identified as needing specific remedial works to keep the road open.

Although there was the usual spectrum of views for and against the scheme, the Department of Transport was sufficiently convinced to commit £13 million of central government funding (£17 million in today’s money).

By the autumn of 2006, the design phase was complete and tendering was under way for the main construction phase.

The £2 million "investigation" then intervened from February to November 2007, shortly after which scheme was cancelled. (This not surprising, given that by then the council had parted company with its head of highways, its senior project engineer and its own internationally respected coastal management expert, leaving no one capable of delivering  the project anyway.)

The government’s cash was duly diverted to mainland projects, and Islanders were left to wait for inevitable failure of the road.

Anyone interested in understanding the real issues will find the Sharpe Pritchard report useful.

This £67,000 investigation into the legal and technical aspects of the scheme reported in June 2007 (when there was still time to step back from the abyss), and found shortcomings in the procurement process but no evidence of fraud or bad faith or unlawful payments.

It set out a sensible set of actions to safeguard the delivery of the scheme through to completion but which were not taken up by the council. Instead, the content of the report was kept secret from the public and the scheme aborted.

How different things might have been.

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