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Yeovil Refresh: Next steps and proposed amendments to ensure value and a better future for the town centre

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Yeovil Refresh: Next steps and proposed amendments to ensure value and a better future for the town centre

 

Introduction

South Somerset District Council (SSDC) is considering proposals to amend certain elements of the public realm enhancement works which form part of its ambitious Yeovil Refresh project.

This comes as a result of a detailed review of forecast budget brought about by unprecedented global economic pressures impacting the delivery of construction projects both globally and domestically.

The impact of these pressures, together with project specific risks which have occurred and may continue to occur, forms the basis of the report published today.

The report seeks approval from Council Members to redefine certain elements of the project scope to reflect current forecast costs and enable the completion of the project. The full published report can be viewed here.

 

 

Yeovil Refresh

Yeovil Refresh is an ambitious and innovative programme which will transform Yeovil as South Somerset’s main retail and leisure centre, through a range of projects and interventions. It aims to deliver a comprehensive package of public realm improvements to transform the visitor experience, increase pedestrian safety and provide a new multi-use square for events and activities. The enhancement work will positively change the areas that people move or congregate around, creating experiences and making spaces more attractive to residents, visitors and businesses alike.

This investment will also access and stimulate investor confidence in adjacent empty units, with a focus on existing derelict and vacant buildings. Unlocking town centre sites by addressing viability constraints will deliver much needed housing to support the sustainability and vitality of Yeovil’s town centre.

The programme is split into four themes which will be delivered by a number of different stakeholders. These are broadly defined as:

 

  • Developments. This relates to bringing forward empty buildings and stalled development sites within the town centre
  • Public Realm enhancements.  Improvements to core streets including Westminster Street, High Street, Borough, Middle Street, Triangle and Wyndham Street area. This will create a better shared space which will be greener and easier to navigate. A new events square will be created at the Triangle
  • Transport system changes. Changes to road systems, additional cycle ways, improved walking routes, review of bus routes, car parking improvements and possible highways junctions
  • Soft interventions.  This includes events programmes, markets, management of spaces in the town, evening economy changes and a range of other economic activities

 

Work began in September 2021 with the public realm improvements, the first areas of focus being Westminster Street, Triangle and Wine Street. Work to the High Street is scheduled to commence in mid-January 2023. Full details about the programme, its ambition and purpose can be found at www.yeovilrefresh.co.uk

 

Summary of proposed amendments

Work to date has been subject to challenges which have fallen outside of the council’s control. Global economic factors have played a significant role: high inflation, labour shortages, limited supply and rising costs of construction materials continue to impact the delivery of large-scale and innately complex developments of this kind.

The council recognises that these coupled with project specific risks related to undertaking groundworks, associated utilities diversions, third party delays including defective work undertaken by the former contractor, Midas, as well as the unexpected underground discovery of structures including cellars, unmapped services and contaminated material, have resulted in significant impact on both the forecasted costs and pace of delivery, of what will, once completed, be a flagship town centre development.

In total costs have been forecast to increase by £4.2m [see Table 1 of the full report], of which savings of £3.78m have been identified and for which proposals are being put forward. The remaining £0.427m is proposed to be covered by a pre-existing project contingency budget along with a proposal for £0.395m as a further contingency in light of potential future risks associated with the project’s construction works.

 

Key amendments proposed and mitigation:

  • Agreement of identified savings as a result of a value engineering exercise

Saving: £0.719m

  • Changing the proposed ‘tree pits’ in High Street and Middle Street East to raised planting areas. The ‘tree pits’ entail utility diversions to allow for the tree roots, which the raised areas would not require

Saving: £0.435m

  • Reallocation of SSDC funds for construction of new cycleways leading into the town centre of £1.2m (external funding of £1.17m has been secured to deliver the cycleways scheme)

Reallocation: £1.2m

  • Reallocation of complementary initiatives funding towards the large screen in the Triangle

Reallocation: £0.146m

  • Agreement to remove costs deemed as extremely unlikely

Saving: £0.58m

  • Agreement to alter the design of the Middle Street East section rather than remove entirely which would work to the detriment of the project and reduce intended outcomes

Saving: £0.7m

  • Utilisation of available project contingency

Contingency: £0.427m

 

Total: £4.207m

  • Future contingency sought: £0.395m

 

Delivering Yeovil Refresh

The proposals published today seek to mitigate the escalating costs associated with the current economic landscape and ongoing financial pressures being faced, with the overriding intention of ensuring effective progress and uncompromised delivery of the Yeovil Refresh project for residents, businesses and visitors to the area.

 

The report will be discussed at South Somerset District Council’s District Executive meeting on Thursday 5 January 2023.

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