Press release: Previously redacted document reveals County Council knew Link Road ‘should not’ have opened until planning conditions were met

January 17, 2017 by combehavendefenders


Andrea Needham with two pages of the redacted document

Press release
Combe Haven Defenders [1]
Tuesday 17 January

Contact 07565 967 250.

Image: Andrea Needham on Link Road with redacted document:

Document accidentally released by East Sussex County Council shows successful delivery was in doubt, a ‘significant’ increase in overall costs and serious issues with contractors

progress review of the Bexhill Hastings Link Road (BHLR), which East Sussex County Council (ESCC) had previously released only in a heavily redacted version [2], has been published online in full by ESCC, apparently by accident [3].

The document, ‘Gateway Review 4’, produced in March 2015, shows that at that time the BHLR was rated ‘amber/red’, meaning that ‘Successful delivery of the project/programme is in doubt with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas’. Later in the document [4], the report states that, ‘Given the project has no agreed programme, is facing increasing costs, and significant compensation events are being made, the Project Board needs to revist the approach to risk management and risk recording’.

Problems identified include ‘compensation events’ [5] of up to £13m, with the possibility of further such costs to come, with the report noting that ‘The scale of any further cost and funding increase is likely to be significant’. It states that ‘The track record of the contractor to date is that it has not met expectations and there have been a significant number of concerns around … the quality of the work completed, the extent of remedial works required… and their ability to keep to time in the operational delivery of the programme’ [6].

In one of the most damning – and previously redacted – parts of the report, it notes that whilst the road might be completed by December 2015, other parts of the build, including landscaping, would not be completed until the following spring. The report states that, ‘From a contractual perspective, the scheme is not finished and the road should not be opened‘ [7 – emphasis added].

Discussing the 26 planning conditions that were supposed to be satisfied before the road was opened, the report notes that ‘It is quite possible that a number of these will have to be negotiated out, waived or reassigned at the point of road opening’.

The report also warns [8] that ‘there does not appear to be a detailed communications strategy’ and that the project is causing an ‘increasing potential reputational risk’ to ESCC.

Campaigners first made a Freedom of Information (FoI) request for the document in July 2016, and were provided with a very heavily redacted version in September 2016 [2]. A request was made for an internal review of the decision to redact the document; this was provided by ESCC in December 2016, but only six words had been unredacted [9]. However, the full, unredacted, document was provided alongside the redacted version, allowing campaigners to see the information that ESCC wanted to keep secret.

Combe Haven Defenders member Andrea Needham, who made the FoI request, said, ‘The full version of this document proves two of the things that we have been saying all along: namely, that this project was badly managed and over budget. Furthermore, it shows that East Sussex County Council were well aware that the road should not have been opened when it was, because the planning conditions were not going to be met in time. Instead of respecting those conditions – as everyone else is required to do – they chose to waive them in order to get the road open and to preserve their reputation. Moreover, rather than coming clean about these issues, ESCC has gone to huge lengths to keep this information from the public. East Sussex residents were sold this road on the basis that it would cost £29m [10]. Instead, and with costs still increasing, it will end up costing at least £68m [10] – money that could have been used to create sustainable local jobs in and around Hastings. It’s high time that Councillors were held responsible for this environmentally and financially disastrous white elephant project.”

Contact 07565 967 250



[3] – note that this version is likely to be removed when ESCC becomes aware of the error. It can also be seen at

[4] p12, ‘Risk management’

[5] A compensation event is an event such as a construction site problem which require the client – in this case, ESCC – to pay more money to the contractor (in this case, a joint venture between Vinci and Hochtief) than originally agreed.

[6] See page 8, ‘2: Review of current phase’

[7] See page 9, ‘Programme to complete the road’

[8] p8, ‘Stakeholder communications’

[9] The words ‘£10m Corporate Risk Management Resource Contingency’ (p7) had been unredacted, after it was pointed out to ESCC that this information was already in the public domain, being in the minutes of the 27 January 2015 ESCC Cabinet meeting

[10] Cost when funding from Dept for Transport agreed: £86m of which DfT would pay £56.85m (see, leaving ESCC with £29.15m to pay . Cost now £125.6m, of which DfT still pays £56.85m, leaving ESCC with £68.75m to pay. See for more info.

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