Watford health campus: more than half a million pounds spent on consultants fees (From Watford Observer)
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Watford health campus: more than half a million pounds spent on consultants fees
Consultants have cashed in on the Watford Health Campus to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds, the project’s accounts have showed.
Over the last three years £550,850 - including more than £21,000 on cost consultancy work - has been shelled out on consultant fees.
The council has refused to name the companies who have worked on the scheme, which promises up to 750 new homes and space for potential new hospital facilities, citing "commercial confidentially".
Watford’s elected mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, said the costs would be more than recouped as the project is set to make a large profit for council.
She said: "We always expected to put the money up front. We are where we should be. The bottom line is everything is on track. The only issue is whether we include the allotments or not and there is such costs associated in fighting legal battles, but that is democracy for you.
"The amount of costs are within the realm of a project of this size but the important thing to know is that we will recuperate that money."
Mayor Thornhill said the council will get a share of the profit once the health campus has been built, explaining: "This is a good scheme that will make money."
Under the current deal, the council and West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust are sharing the costs of health campus expenditure.
However, the profits of the health campus will be split between the council and developers Kier.
According to the figures obtained by the Watford Observer, advice on the commercial aspect of the scheme, accountancy, forming a business case to the project and management support has contributed to the £550,850 consultants’ bill.
Figures show how much has been spent on the scheme since it began in 2011 up until September 2013.
The health campus is a £260 million regeneration scheme for a 29 hectare site.
Development management has cost nearly £445,000 and, so far, marketing the scheme has cost £17,756
Figures exclude the amount that Watford Borough Council had to pay the East of England Development Agency to buy back the land before it was dissolved in 2012.
The largest expenditure so far is the amount spent on legal costs, amounting to £642,405.
The controversy which surrounds the health campus escalated last month as it emerged that the High Court granted permission to Farm Terrace campaigners to challenge Eric Pickles’ decision to allow the council to build on their allotment site.
Mayor Thornhill said removing Farm Terrace from the health campus site could jeopardise the financial security of the scheme.
She said: "The issue with Farm Terrace is the viability of the project. If you have to keep the allotments where they are we probably won’t get the money back and won’t get much of the profit."
A contaminated land assessment was carried out at the expense of £211,505 and a wildlife survey cost £15,231.
Kathryn Robson, spokesman for the council, said: "Watford Health Campus is about regenerating an area of west Watford, remediating contaminated land, delivering space for healthcare facilities, new homes and providing jobs.
"Parts of the scheme will be unviable while other parts of the scheme will be viable. Whilst we expect to recoup our costs and create profits, given the length of the project, these will depend on a wide range of factors such as land values and market fluctuations over a twenty year period.
"As a partner in the scheme, any profits that the council may make from Watford Health Campus will be reinvested in the borough for the benefit of council taxpayers."
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