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SIC bridge costs reach over £7.2 million

THE FULL cost of the aborted Bressay bridge project to Shetland Islands Council is more than £7 million, it has emerged.

This week the council settled a legal dispute with Lerwick Port Authority over their plans to build a bridge across Lerwick harbour for £4,825,727.

The payment avoids the need for the port to take the council to court over an interim interdict taken out in August 2005 preventing the port from dredging the harbour’s north mouth.

The court order was obtained using emergency powers without consulting the full council just four days before the £6 million contract was due to commence.

Both sides said they were keen to avoid the reputational damage that would have been caused to Shetland had their dispute been dragged through the courts.

On Wednesday it emerged that the council had already spent almost £2.3 million on the Bressay bridge project prior to the settlement being reached.

These extra costs included almost £800,000 spent on external consultants, more than £400,000 spent on external lawyers, more than £450,000 on paying council staff to deal with the bridge project and almost £500,000 on works contract costs.

On Monday councillors met in private where they voted against conducting an internal investigation into why so much money was wasted on a project that never saw the light of day.

Chief executive Alistair Buchan said that the organisation would take “corporate responsibility” for what happened.

He added that the way the council had been reorganised over the past year would make it highly unlikely to ever happen again.

However Lerwick South member Jonathan Wills has joined MSP Tavish Scott calling for a full investigation into how so much money was spent on a project that never saw the light of day.

Lerwick Port Authority has since proceeded with its dredging project and the council has abandoned all plans for building a bridge to Bressay.

Instead the authority has embarked on a long term strategy to raise £300 million to build tunnels to the four main inhabited islands – Bressay, Whalsay, Yell and Unst.

A cost breakdown:

Works contract costs: £489,795.05
Other operating costs: £50,658.72
Travel & subsistence costs: £43,622.07
External/professional fees: £798,254.50
External legal fees: £409,410.51
SIC officer time: £456,154.34