Council defends £2m planning experts bill for Bridlington blueprint
A £2M consultants' bill for work on a Bridlington regeneration scheme has been defended by East Riding Council.
Critics have questioned why more than £2.1m was spent buying in expertise for the Bridlington Area Action Plan.
They point out East Riding Council is faced with making £43m of savings over the next three financial years and already has a well-staffed planning and economic regeneration directorate.
But East Riding Council deputy leader Jonathan Owen said: "Those people manage the day-to-day operation of the council.
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"It is quite normal to bring in consultants for schemes of this scale. I don't think any local authorities carry experts like that. This is not out of the ordinary."
One company, Atkins Ltd, has been paid more than £1.9m over the past seven years.
Its specialists prepared the Bridlington Area Action Plan, a blueprint for how the town will be developed over the next 15 years.
Other companies were also involved.
Mayor of Bridlington Michael Charlesworth has been a critic of the scheme from the outset.
He described spending such a large amount of money on consultants as "disgusting" and said the council employs highly-paid people already.
Former East Riding councillor Geoff Pickering, who gave evidence to the inquiry that eventually approved the scheme, said the amount of money that had been spent should be investigated.
But Mr Owen said: "Both those people were major objectors to the scheme all the way along. Maybe they could explain how this money should have been spent."
East Riding Council has also pointed out £1.4m of the costs were met by the now abolished regional development agency Yorkshire Forward, rather than the council.
Mr Owen said: "My personal view is we haven't been profligate with money.
"We're talking about a £60m scheme into which the council has put in about a third.
"The experts the council has in-house deal with more mundane, day-to-day operations.
"If schemes of this scale happened all the time we'd have people employed to deal with them."
The Bridlington Area Action Plan was approved in August after an 18-month planning inquiry.
But the inspector ruled out the development of the harbour top.
That decision delighted the Harbour Commissioners, who had claimed it would have threatened the operation of the port.
Mr Owen said he felt the whole scheme should have been approved.
He said: "It was perceived by the council that the harbour top would be a nice part of the scheme.
"When the scheme is developed I think people will wish to see the harbour top developed."