One man's campaign uncovers what happened when developers quit £47m Waterfront scheme

PUBLISHED: 09:49 08 March 2010 | UPDATED: 09:33 02 June 2010

Artist's impression of what the Nene scheme would have looked like

Artist's impression of what the Nene scheme would have looked like

By John Elworthy FENLAND District Council kept £100,000 of the £600,000 originally handed over by Taylor Wimpey as a deposit to build 300 homes alongside the River Nene in Wisbech. The company, who pulled out at the 11th hour from their part in the £47

By John Elworthy

FENLAND District Council kept £100,000 of the £600,000 originally handed over by Taylor Wimpey as a deposit to build 300 homes alongside the River Nene in Wisbech.

The company, who pulled out at the 11th hour from their part in the £47 million regeneration scheme, also allowed the council to keep the interest on the deposit.

The information came to light this week in a letter from PriceWaterhouseCooper, the council's auditors.

Much of what happened in 2007 when Taylor Wimpey suddenly withdrew has been clouded in secrecy but fresh information has come to light following a long running campaign started by Tony Kiddle of Leverington.

Mr Kiddle says he was always concerned the company had "walked off the riverside development without paying a penny" and has been fighting to get information released about what happened.

"Having had several years in the building industry, I was amazed to learn that there was no penalty clause on this multi million pound contract," he said. "I have on numerous occasions tried to get a definite answer but for reasons beyond my comprehension no answer has been forthcoming."

That was until last month when a letter arrived from the auditors setting out what happened when the credit crunch hit and when Taylor Wimpey withdrew.

The auditors say the co-operation agreement between the company and Fenland Council was terminated "by mutual agreement to enable the council to find an alternative development partner".

At that stage no formal contract had been signed, and there was "no provision to enable the council to recover recompense from the company"

However under the co-operation agreement, Taylor Wimpey had previously handed over £600,000 "as a commitment to becoming the council's preferred partner."

Not only did the council get to keep £100,000 and the interest, but the council also obtained site investigation report and design plans drawn up by Taylor Wimpey.

Legal advice to the council, says the auditors, was such that Fenland had no option but to allow the contract to lapse.

"I have recommended to the council that for future schemes of this nature that it considers whether it can have greater protection built into any co-operation agreement that it enters into," writes R Bennett, the appointed auditor.

Mr Kiddle said he was frustrated and angry by the brick wall he encountered when trying to get local councillors and officials to tell him what had happened.

"I might be a recycled juvenile but not an imbecilic moron and do not intend to be spoken to and treated as such," he said in one letter to the auditors, following a series of bruising encounters as he went on the trail of the fall-out from the aborted scheme.


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