Orchard West’s Cost Skyrockets to £2.6 Million, Raising Concerns Over Council’s Financial Management

Dartford’s temporary theatre, Orchard West, has come at a much higher cost than originally anticipated, with a final price tag of £2.6 million. Initially estimated at £1.5 million, the unforeseen costs have raised concerns about the council’s financial management.

The need for a temporary theatre arose when The Orchard Theatre in Dartford was forced to shut down due to the discovery of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in its roof. Construction on Orchard West began in November and it quickly became the main entertainment venue for the community.

However, the unexpected additional costs have caused the project’s budget to skyrocket. This includes expenses for site security, fire risk and health and safety measures, sound mitigation, and mains drainage connection. The total bill for the temporary theatre and repairs for The Orchard Theatre has now reached almost £10 million, which will ultimately fall on the taxpayers of Dartford.

The decision to build Orchard West was made in order to safeguard the local economy, preserve jobs, and provide a cultural offer for residents. However, the council’s failure to accurately predict the costs has raised concerns among the local community. Questions will be asked at the upcoming scrutiny committee meeting about the council’s management of the project and why these additional costs were not foreseen.

Despite the challenges, the new temporary theatre has been well-received by the community and has allowed for the continuation of cultural events and performances. The council recognizes the importance of The Orchard Theatre to the local economy and is committed to finding a long-term solution for its repair.

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