MARKET Place’s regeneration project went over budget by £220,000.

This means Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) and Wokingham Town Council (WTC) shelled out £4.42 million in total – five per cent more than the authorities expected even with contingency funds in place.

Chris Easton, principal engineer for highways and transport at WBC, told councillors officers initially faced pressure to get the budget under £4 million.

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He said: “At the time we were given a brief to undertake a design for the town and there was no guarantee it was going to be progressed to the final stage of delivery.

“Therefore there was not a huge appetite to spend a massive amount of money on design.

“I think we have got a good town. Following its completion and now with Peach Place added the town’s becoming a much-improved place.

“Given the five months overrun, five per cent overspend is pretty reasonable considering the amount of work that was undertaken.”

Conservative councillor Pauline Jorgensen defended the scheme after pointing out original estimates suggested the project could cost up to £4.6 million.

She said: “We took the risk and it paid off. We spent more than we were pressured down to, but we did not spend more than the original estimate.

“I think it’s very important not to make the conclusion that pressure on cost and on suppliers meant we ended up with an overspend.”

But Liberal Democrats Cllr Clive Jones hit back having earlier claimed it was an “error” to force officers to reduce costs despite consultants’ advice.

He added: “It paid off in financial terms, but not for the residents.”

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Councillors discussed the financial impact of the project at a meeting on Monday, June 17, after a report laid bare the issues surrounding the Market Place regeneration.

The report also indicated a number of safety issues surrounding accessibility of the town centre have been resolved, but the council has been warned by independent auditors to continue improving the tactile studs laid on the paving.

Studs need to be coloured differently so residents can identify them easier, should have their skid resistance monitored and some need to be replaced after officers pointed out several had come loose.

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Lib Dem Cllr Paul Fishwick suggested residents are still tripping and falling over in the town centre despite Mr Easton’s claim fewer reports had been received.