Bill for Battery Point bell project now stands at £18,000
By Prue_Reid | Thursday, January 31, 2013, 17:36
A PROJECT to display a former lighthouse bell in the centre of Portishead has already cost the taxpayer £18,000.
Battery Point lighthouse
The bronze bell, which used to hang in the lighthouse at Battery Point, has been installed on the central reservation at Wyndham Way.
The project has been led by Portishead Town Council and it was revealed this week that the costs so far stand at £18,000 –which has been found out of council funds.
The bronze bell, which weighs two tonnes, used to hang in the lighthouse and automatically sound to warn sailors travelling along the Bristol Channel of treacherous weather conditions.
It was put in the lighthouse when it was built in 1931 but removed 12 years ago because of concerns surrounding the structural strength of the lighthouse.
The town council paid £1 for the bell after local residents Annette Hennessy and Carol Thomas tracked it down to a dusty warehouse at Portbury Docks.
Councillors were keen to see the bell put on display and initially earmarked £2,500 to spend on architects and planning permission fees.
A number of locations for the bell were considered, including the Folk Hall and library, before a decision was taken to put it on display at Wyndham Way.
Councillors then agreed to earmark a further £12,000 to build a special concrete, granite and steel structure for the bell to hang on.
The town council has also had to foot the bill for additional surveys, including one on the water pipes below the site which is understood to have cost several hundred pounds.
A tree survey has also had to be carried out, at the request of North Somerset Council and the bell had to be insured, adding to the costs
But over the months the cost of the projects have continued to rise and now the bill stands at £18,000.
.Councillors are now concerned that the final cost of the bell project could reach as much as £20,000 with maintenance and cleaning bills in the future.
Money for the project was taken out of reserves from the council's environmental, cultural, heritage and allotment budget.
Some councillors raised concerns about the costs at the start of the project, fearful that funds were being spent when other services were being cut as a result of sweeping austerity measures.
Councillor David Pasley said: "When you add together everything which has been spent on this project, it is a large amount of money,
"I think if councillors knew what the full extent of the costs of this project were likely to be at the start, then they may not have agreed to go ahead with it and found a different use for the bell.
Councillor Ros Cruse said: "I have always been against the spending of such a large amount of money on this project.
"I was never against the bell project itself, but I thought there were other places it could have been put which would have cost less.
"It now seems as if the project could cost up to £20,000."