Cabinet discussed the request for additional funding for works on Berth 4/5 at the Ramsgate of Port. Members were advised that in order for the council to fulfil its contractual obligations to Bretts, the council had to provide a berth for them at all times for use in connection with their permitted activities. A detailed background to the decision was shared at the meeting in order to provide a context for this cabinet decision. For several years the berths provided were becoming problematic in terms of the need for constant maintenance and repair and ultimately came to the end of their useful life.
Initial feasibility and design work for the project to replace the existing Berth 4/5 was focused on a fixed quay, however following an approach by BAM Nuttal the use of a floating pontoon became an option. Following a technical assessment by our consultants, the option of a floating pontoon was more cost effective and would fall within the capital cost allocated to the project.
It was also reported that on the 28th June 2019 the council gained external planning advice, that reliance could still be placed on part 18 of the General Purpose Development Order. On this basis, a prior approval application could therefore be made without the need to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or to make a full planning application. The meeting was further advised that based on this advice, officers proceeded on that basis.
The two options of a fixed quay or floating berth were presented to a cross party Ramsgate Port Working Party who then decided unanimously that the floating berth (pontoon) should be developed as this represented best value. Legal advice was also sought to confirm that the pontoons could be purchased in accordance with the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. The advice received was that a compliant tender pack and performance specification should be produced for the purpose of competitive tendering.
The documents provided additional information which allowed a better understanding of the scale of the project that the council’s lawyers had not had prior to the initial advice. Subsequently their advice was amended to say that a direct award could be progressed and would be lawful. Record of decision for the realignment of the capital programme was signed by the Port Portfolio Holder. The Chair of the Overview & Scrutiny Panel subsequently called in this decision and the legal advice was shared with the members of the Panel.
There was then a change in administration and the new Cabinet requested a report outlining all the options available to procure a replacement berth. At the Cabinet meeting held on the 16th December 2019, Option 4 was approved which was a competitive tender for a single replacement berth. This was a change in procurement approach from the previous decision to do a direct award. Following the competitive tender process Bam Nuttal where the preferred supplier for the replacement berth, now only utilising just one of the two pontoons.
On the 17th June 2020, the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) informed TDC that we needed to screen the project to establish whether an EIA was required. This was in relation to the construction of piles to hold the berth in place. On the 17th August 2020 the MMO confirmed that an EIA was not required and following this, a prior approval application was submitted to the Local Planning Authority (LPA).
Consequently, at that time and based on the advice the officer had received, the project did not require an EIA and a revised project delivery plan was shared with the contractor. Even though as the applicant the council had received legal advice that an EIA was not required on the 13th October 2020, the LPA confirmed that they now required an EIA before prior approval application could be determined. The MMO subsequently reviewed their position which subsequently also changed and aligned with the LPA and also now required an EIA.
This unanticipated delay had resulted in a significant increase in the estimated total cost of the scheme which now exceeds the allocated budget. The cabinet report that was considered at the meeting provided detail on the additional scheme cost and proposed an increase in the budget allocation of £825k. A breakdown of this amount was set at Annex 1 to the cabinet report. The report also contained a revised project programme set out at Annex 2, which showed the construction phase now taking place between May and August 2022. A summary of project activity to date was also presented as a timeline at Annex 3 to the cabinet report.
Recommendation 1 in the report was a request for a capital virement of £55k to the berth 4/5 project from two other existing maritime capital projects to fund the EIA.
Recommendations 2 and 3 were ordinarily decisions that were meant to have been by Full Council, but were being recommended for approval by Cabinet as urgent decisions (under Rule 4 of the Budget and Policy Framework Procedure Rules in the Constitution).
As urgent decisions outside the Budget Framework, the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny has been informed and has given consent for the matter to be dealt with by Cabinet. The matter will be reported to the next scheduled meeting of Council in September.
The following Members spoke under council Procedure Rule 20.1.
Councillor Ashbee proposed, Councillor Cabinet is asked to agree the following recommendations:
1. A 2021-22 General Fund capital virement to transfer budget totalling £55k to the ‘Berth 4/5 Replacement Project’ scheme for the development of the EIA be approved, to be funded from a £25k transfer from the ‘Replacement of Lead Lights at Port’ scheme and £30k transfer from the ‘Ramsgate Port & Harbour Utilities Supply upgrade’ scheme;
2. That a 2021-22 supplementary capital budget of £325,000 be approved for additional costs associated with the ‘Berth 4/5 Replacement Project’ scheme, to be funded from a £50,000 revenue contribution and £275,000 of borrowing, in accordance with Rule 4 of the Budget and Policy Framework Procedure Rules;
3. That additional revenue expenditure of £445,000 recognised in the 2020-21 accounts and financed from the Council’s earmarked reserves be approved, in accordance with Rule 4 of the Budget and Policy Framework Procedure Rules.