Firms asked to show interest in building new Portsmouth sea defences 

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BUSINESSES are being asked to register their interest in providing materials and labour for works on the Southsea sea defences, before the consultation period ends.

Contractors Balfour Beatty, working as part of the Eastern Solent Coastal Partnership (ESCP), are asking for sheet piling, fencing, soft landscaping and the installation of grout revetments.

The council confirmed the invitations are to get an idea of costing and to help stick to a strict time scale.

Cllr Dave Ashmore, the council's environment boss, said: 'If you were having some building work done on your house, you wouldn't go with the first quote you got, you'd get several and judge which one was the best value based on price and quality.

'This is the same on a larger scale. This testing process is standard procedure and does not pre-judge the outcome of the consultation, as we are carrying out the exercise on all options available to the public.

'The team need to gather detailed costs so they can build the full business case for the scheme, which will need to be approved by central government if we want to get funding for construction. Portsmouth City Council, [ESCP] or Balfour Beatty will not be issuing any contracts as a result of this process.'

Tory spokesperson for the defences, Cllr Luke Stubbs, agreed. 'The whole process has to run to a timetable,' he said.

'It has to be demonstrated to government that everything will fit the budget. In an ideal world there would not be this time constraint. But I think it needs this approach.'

Some are concerned it could pre-determine some of the defence designs.

Architect and University of Portsmouth lecturer, Walter Menteth, said: 'What they are suggesting is that they are going to move toward a contract.

'They are spending more and more money and the only thing they can do if they don't want to waste money already spent is go with the proposed designs. Otherwise, they could risk a situation similar to the Thames Garden Bridge, which was eventually scrapped.

'If tenders get signed up and the council changes what it wants, they would have to pay a break fee. This gives them less room to change any of their plans.’ 

Cllr Ashmore added: 'If Mr Menteth or any other members of the public have any further questions regarding procurement for the project I'd urge them to talk to the team directly.'

Businesses need to fill in a questionnaire by August 10. Other packages will however be added over the next couple of weeks with later cut-off dates.