A £3.5million addition to the budget for Littlehampton’s new leisure centre has seen the project cost soar to £19.4million.
The sum was criticised by Arun District Council’s Liberal Democrat group, who questioned the effectiveness of the scheme’s project management.
But Arun’s ruling Conservative group insisted the sum, which including incorporating additional sought-after facilities, showed they had ‘listened’ to the public.
Speaking at full council last Wednesday, Lib Dem councillor Paul Wells said: “This council is always saying we have to be very careful because we haven’t got the money to do this and that but it does appear there is a magic money tree starting to grow from the foundations of this authority.”
The new centre, in Sea Road, was granted planning permission in January.
The initial estimate of £16,127,376 has increased for a number of reasons, including the need for piled foundations, inclusion of a sauna and low-carbon technology, further fixtures and fittings and diversion of a sewer.
Arun leader Gill Brown said costs were being closely monitored and that the council was building a facility to meet the expectations of the community.
Councillor Paul Dendle, former cabinet member for leisure and amenities who spearheaded the project initial conception, leapt to the defence of Arun’s officers.
He said councillors needed to trust officers and praised them for doing an ‘extremely good job’.
Graham Tyler, Tory councillor for Rustington East, said: “We have listened. We have got saunas in there. We have come up against piping and things that are unforeseen.
“Of course £3.5m is a lot of money in itself but when you take it as a whole with the £19.5m I still think it represents good value for money and it will be a really welcome asset for this district.”
Angmering and Findon’s Andy Cooper agreed. He said: “It is unfortunate we find ourselves in the position of having to add this money in but it does represent exceptionally good value for money.”
Labour’s Mike Northeast, who lobbied for the centre to be moved to the north of the town, said his warnings over the site’s suitability had come true. “I told you so,” he said.