Wyre Forest District Council has set out the timetable for the creation of 55 additional car parking spaces at the site of the former library and medical centre in Bewdley.

The council is to seek tenders for the construction work and is expecting to appoint a contractor by the end of August and that the works will be complete by the end of November, in time for the busy Christmas period.

The expansion of this car park is the final phase of a complicated set of developments in the town centre in which the council has played a central role by enabling multi million pound investment in the town including the provision of a new medical centre and library facilities fit for the 21st century as well as delivering more car parking spaces for the town.

The council made available land at the Dog Lane car park to allow the Bewdley Medical Centre to be built, and it opened in July 2016. The library relocated to the new building and opened shortly after.

To mitigate the loss of car parking spaces in Dog Lane car park, the council created 43 spaces during summer 2015, and expanded the car park at Gardners Meadow by 22 spaces in January 2016.

Commencement of the works to demolish the former medical centre and library were initially delayed by the failure of National Grid to promptly and effectively disconnect the gas supply to the site.

The request for disconnection was accepted by National Grid on 13 October 2016 but despite frequent chasing of the work throughout by the council’s officers, notice of disconnection was not received until 19 December.

However, it was identified on the following day that National Grid had failed to disconnect the supply to one of the meters on site and it took a further two months, until 16 February, for National Grid to undertake the final element of the disconnection work and render the site safe for demolition to commence.

Demolition was then undertaken by Snape, the council’s maintenance contractors, who were also due to carry out the works to lay out the additional 55 car parking spaces in Load Street car park. However in early May, the contractors notified the council that their estimate of the cost of laying out the car park had more than doubled from an estimate provided in June 2016. This would have added well over £100,000 to the cost of the project.

The council does not accept that this is a reasonable and proportionate increase and the works will therefore proceed only following a competitive process.

Councillor Ian Hardiman, Cabinet Member for Planning & Economic Regeneration, said: “The Council has been badly served by National Grid, whose work was unacceptably slow and not comprehensive. This caused a delay to the start of demolition work, which has in turn affected our ability to lay out the new car parking spaces before the busy summer period, as we had originally planned.

“It is fortunate that the council had already expanded the number of car parking spaces at other sites in the town in order to minimise the impact. However we feel that the performance of this utility company has been very poor and has let residents and local businesses down.”

Councillor Becky Vale, Cabinet Member for Operational Services, added:

"I am quite frankly dismayed that there will be a delay to the laying out of additional car parking spaces at Load Street.

“As a council, we are not prepared to accept the massive increase in estimated costs from our contractors. We are guardians of the public purse and as such it is the right thing to seek competitive tenders in order to get a fair deal for taxpayers.

“The delay caused by the National Grid in failing to disconnect the gas supply to the site in a timely manner has not helped the situation.

“Council officers are exploring the possibility of some temporary car parking arrangements on the site over the summer. This project has been upset by challenging circumstances which have been outside the control of the council."

Wyre Forest District Council Cabinet will consider an exempt report at its meeting on 14 June which sets out a proposed timetable for the award of a contract by the end of August and the completion of the works by the end of November.