Spiralling costs and delays at Meridian Water

Enfield Council’s regeneration of Meridian Water appears to be in the midst of a vicious circle of spiralling costs and delays.

The cost of building essential infrastructure (e.g. roads and bridges) at Meridian Water has escalated due to delays in the design process, extended contract negotiations, and inflation. As a result Enfield Council now needs additional funding from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) to complete this work.

However, the Council doesn’t know if or when it will get the funding it needs. According to a recent report, the DLUHC will not decide the outcome of the Council’s funding request until at least June 2023.  This means there is uncertainty about the future of Meridian Water, and more delays will generate further additional costs.

To put the delays in perspective, the Council received planning approval for the infrastructure works nearly 3-years ago but work on-site has not yet begun. Unless the work starts soon, the planning approval will lapse, which would create further delays and spiralling costs.   

The infrastructure works were scheduled to be completed by March 2024, but the Council is now looking to extend this by 2-years. This in turn will slow down the delivery of the new homes and impact budget planning (e.g. interest will accrue, and it will take the Council far longer than anticipated to recoup the money it borrowed and invested in the scheme). 

A main concern is what will happen if the DLUHC refuses all or part of the Council’s funding request.  Not receiving the additional funding is likely to put the Council’s regeneration of Meridian Water into serious jeopardy; possible outcomes could be pausing the project, selling off some of the land, asking the GLA for help, or the Council stepping back from their role as master developer. All of these will have significant cost implications and would delay the completion of homes that are desperately needed in Enfield.

What this demonstrates is that the public sector does not have the ability to flex and respond dynamically to procurement problems when trying to deliver large scale buildings projects like Meridian Water, which are not faced to the same extent by private enterprises, who have greater flexibility and can move at pace.   

The future of Meridian Water is currently uncertain and, for the time being at least, is now outside the Council’s control.

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