Shelter Hall overruns

In light of the collapse of nationwide contract Carillon, it is prudent to examine how the costs of construction can overrun to the point where they cost more than forecasted.

Why is it that in the construction world, everything seems to cost more and take longer? Building contractors have had years of experience at cost estimation, yet the oft-quoted excuse is the lack of supply or staff, or some other excuse which presumably could not have been anticipated. You would think that with many years of experience in the construction industry, companies could at least factor this costs in foresight so that the cost quoted at the start is accurate over the course of projects.

All this highlights a problem within the construction industry. The quotations offered to councillors who approve such projects are deliberately low to secure approval, yet once approval has been obtained they balloon to their true size, or even an estimate, which cannot be gone back on because the contracts have been signed, or the structure is already have in place. But could you imagine if you ordered spaghetti from a restaurant, that you would have to wait longer for your food, and on top of that the restaurant tells you that the spaghetti is in shortage and therefore you would have to pay more and wait longer for the same bowl? Why do we accept this in construction?

The work to rebuild Shelter Hall in West Street is now forecast to cost twice as much and twice as long. Shouldn’t it be the case that contractors who don’t adhere to their own estimates of time and cost should bear the brunt of the extra cost themselves? The problem is that after subsidies to cover the extra rising costs from the original cost of ten million pounds, there is still a two million pound shortfall to fund the project that must come from the city coffers, or Brighton residents will end up with a half-finished mound of eyesore.

It is almost as if we build projects with the expectation that they will overrun, and we sign them off with blank cheques of money and time. We need a revamp on the construction system; contractors need to provide final cost estimates and timeframes when submitting for tender, and any shortfall should be met by them, as it impacts on the town’s infrastructure. We cannot have projects overrunning, doubling in cost, with the extra monies going to line the pockets of directors. It is a sad unethical abuse of the system.

The Bevendean Road Neighbourhood

Did you know the Bevendean neighbourhood can be traced back to the last millenium? The Domesday Book of 1086 recorded the manor of Bevendean, ‘Beofa’s valley’, to be worth £6 and held by one Walter from William de Warrenne.

It was eventually divided between two estates, Lower and Upper Bevendean, which were acquired by the corporation in November 1913 and January 1940 respectively; the whole Bevendean area was annexed by the county borough from Falmer parish on April 1 1928.

Lower Bevendean Farm was originally accessed from Bear Rd by a trackway now known as Bevendean Rd and had an 18th-century farmhouse, but the buildings were later demolished to provide the open space now known as Farm Green between Auckland Drive and Bevendean School. However, Upper Bevendean Farm survives, and has a late 19th-century farmhouse approached from Warren Avenue, Woodingdean.

The first development of the Lower Bevendean estate came in the early 1930s, when the corporation extended its housing from South Moulsecoomb up the valley onto Bevendean land: thus 85-123 and 110-120 The Avenue (eastwards from the cross roads at the western end of Manton Rd), plus Lower Bevendean Avenue, Upper Bevendean Avenue and Manton Rd, are now a part of Bevendean.

At about the same time, the Widdicombe Way/Bevendean Crescent area was developed privately and was also known as part of the Bevendean estate, but it is now normally counted as part of the Moulsecoomb district. With a pressing need for new homes in the post-war period, the greater part of the Bevendean housing estate was rapidly developed higher up the valley from 1948 by the corporation, which named the roads after English castles.

Bevendean Barn, at the corner of Auckland Drive and Heath Hill Avenue, was used as a chapel for the estate from 1953, but was replaced in 1963 by the Church of the Holy Nativity, a Modern-style building in brick, mottled knapped-flint and cobbles by Richard Melhuish.

The Hyde Business Park was developed from 1955; the first factory was Elizabeth English shoes, followed by Hibberd Furniture, Brighton Sheet Metal Works, Redifon and Canada Dry; current businesses include Big Box Storage and West Instruments. Bevendean is a relatively deprived ward within the city — more than three quarters of its population are on a low income — and has been the recipient of Neighbourhood Renewal funding. It has a relatively high percentage of residents living in council accommodation — 24% — while 13% live in housing association homes.