Lining up more Dominos?

We always love a good Gantt chart and the one published this week for the Civic Plaza Car Park Redevelopment Project gives us plenty of food for thought. Safely viewed on an A4 page or from the back of the room when projected at the Cabinet meeting, it’s reassuringly unreadable and slopes down in the right sort of direction.

By any stretch of the imagination, the Civic Plaza Car Park Redevelopment Project is a ‘complex project’, particularly if the external programme dependencies and overall programme governance approach are factored in.

So we though it was worth a closer look, starting with the green bits – the work done to date:

Task 3 has already been ‘re-planned’ to the right and we note that the ‘Homes England’ Funding Agreement, which on plan completed on January 19th, wasn’t publicised until two months later. (Perhaps HBC decided to sit on it for a couple of months.)

The much trumpeted ‘Homes England‘ grant of £3.5 million is actually being used to pay the bill for WBD (Womble, Bond, Dickinson), ‘Homes England’s regular partner in such matters, and while the actual projected costs of the project are not publicly visible, it’s probably safe to say that the £3.5 million represents a very small part of that.


Now we’re sure that WBD will have offered sound advice to the Cabinet Meeting at task 9 but we would be fascinated to know what the contingency plans for Brexit are. For the past few decades, public service procurement has been required to follow the well worn European Journal route indicated in tasks 15, 16 and 17, however, in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit that won’t work and an, as yet undefined, alternative must be used. ( Finger’s crossed, eh?)

Assuming that the EU Journal process can be followed, April is going to be a busy month, reviewing and scoring the questionnaires from prospective development partners. During May, June and July, HBC and WBD will be in discussions with the shortlisted candidates, reviewing initial schemes and developing the detail behind the formal ITT (Invitation to Tender). August holidays will be put on hold for some while the ITT is published to suppliers, responded to and returned to HBC, with selection of the preferred bidder taking place in September. October promises to be another busy month with the negotiation and acceptance of a Developer Agreement (DA) that binds the Development Partner to progress the development of the site in line with the Council’s aspirations around design quality, numbers and tenure and Homes England’s requirements within the agreed timeframe”. With that in place and HBC formal approval of the DA, appointment of the Development Partner will follow.

All by the end of October!

There then follows seven months of Design and Planning activity, four months to prepare the planning application for approval this time next year. I don’t doubt that we’ll all be invited to comment in the usual time honoured manner, but by this time the train will either be moving at express speed or will be well and truly off the rails. The overlapping of Detailed Design work with the Planning Approval process suggests that there will be little time for taking on board public comment.

Now most Gantt charts at this ‘sales’ level have a ‘here a miracle occurs’ moment and this one is no exception as we move into the ‘Construction’ phase. The dates on the left – the task start and end dates – now start to diverge from the right hand side of the chart, which suggests that this is a Powerpoint exercise rather than the output of a planning tool.

After four months of Contractor Procurement and preliminary work activity, a 22 month construction phase of the project kicks off. While the factory build of the prefab apartments takes place at an, as yet unspecified site, six months will be spent building new multi-storey car parking to compensate for that being lost through the development. Between October 2020 and March 2021, (Or should that be between March 2021 and July 2021?) it looks as if the Police Station, Magistrate’s Court and the Job Centre will be demolished, making way for the delivery of the prefabs.

Task 37, ‘MMC (Modern Method of Construction) Tool-up‘ is shown as running between ‘May 2020 and June 2020’, i.e. ending before the completion of contractor procurement. However, the graphic shows that activity running a more realistic four months later, through September and October 2020.

By September 2021, with most of the site assembly complete and only the completion of the ‘non MMC’ elements remaining, six months of Marketing and Letting activity begins. Or so it says in the task column. The Gantt chart itself shows this running nine months later, starting in June 2022, all rather confusing.

Project Completion either takes place between Jan and March 2022 or between June and August 2022, depending on which side of the chart you read. To the casual observer, the project completes by March 2023; to a more critical eye, it completes in August 2023.

So there you have it. Whatever could go wrong?