Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Yard Delay Sparks EU Funding Fears; Council Chief Issues North Bank Alert

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Yard Delay Sparks EU Funding Fears; Council Chief Issues North Bank Alert

Article excerpt

Byline: Dan Warburton Chief Reporter? 0191 201 6276 ?

MILLIONS of pounds in European funding could be put at risk by delays over the future of a crane contract, a council claims.

North Tyneside Council yesterday seemed to overturn a decision to grant an operating licence for a crane on the Swan Hunter site and said it would be carrying out a procurement process.

The move came after months of legal wrangling, in which Freddy Shepherd's Shepherd Offshore company was granted permission for a judicial review of a council decision to award a PS50m stake in the famous site to an as yet unidentified company..

But the council's decision in March still stands and an official announcement is due in days.

Shortly before the announcement in the spring, the council revealed that WD Close & Sons Ltd and Titan Heavy Transport - operating under a company named Jupiter Offshore Limited - had put more than PS1m into bringing a 57-metre crane from Holland.

A spokeswoman for the council last night said it was "discussing the future use of the [operating] licence granted with Jupiter Offshore Limited and [we have] no further comment to make" However, council chief executive, Graham Haywood is quoted in cabinet papers as saying that delays on decisions about the site could put multi-million pound European funding at risk.

Mr Haywood said: "Should the procurement not progress, then it is possible that the PS3.98m external grant funding secured to support the infrastructure works could be at risk. "Detailed discussions would need to be entered into with the awarding bodies to agree any alternative proposals."

Mr Shepherd and his Walker-based company lodged legal action with the High Court after the company failed to win a bid to take control of the site, including the quay which in turn includes the crane contract.

The company argued that the procurement process had been flawed and that it had been "misled" in the run-up to the contract being awarded.

That sparked a bitter exchange with then-Mayor Linda Arkley who accused the former Newcastle United owner of "sour grapes".

Now she has been ousted by Labour's Norma Redfearn, the council has said it will put the contract for the quay and "craneage services" out to tender again. …

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