ESCALATING legal bills ruled out a court battle over a major project to improve Scarborough’s sea defences which suffered spiralling costs.
Members of Scarborough Council’s Audit Committee are due to hear a progress report into the Castle Headland scheme at a meeting on Tuesday.
In March 2002 the council appointed Edmund Nuttall Ltd to carry out work on the scheme which included repairs to the East Pier and Marine Drive sea wall, a rock defence along Marine Drive and a wave wall on top of the existing sea wall.
But according to a report by Ian Anderson, the council’s head of legal services, the work was delayed and construction costs almost doubled – from £25.7 million to £46.65 million – and consultant’s fees rocketed from £1.2 million to £3.8 million.
Mr Anderson said: “Following completion of the works DEFRA required the council to obtain advice from an independent engineering expert upon the culpability or otherwise of High Point Rendel, the council’s consultants.
“That advice supported the initiation of proceedings. With continuing financial support from DEFRA the council sought to mediate and subsequently negotiate with the consultants toward a resolution short of the full pursuit of court proceedings. This approach was ultimately unsuccessful.”
Mr Anderson said that costs rose on both sides, both parties had consulted experts, and when they met in April and May this year there was “little common ground” on certain issues. He added: “While there was some common ground on the engineering issues it became apparent that there were significant triable issues between the experts.”
His report revealed that any damages would be limited to £5 million and if the case went to full trial the defendant’s legal costs would be more than £2.5 million. He added: “Consequently both parties agreed that the case be discontinued on the basis that each party carried its own costs.”