A MULTI-million pound roadworks scheme to support a flagship regeneration project has run £5m over budget, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Durham County Council hoped a £9m upgrade of Thinford roundabout, near Spennymoor, would help deliver the £150m mixed-use Durham Gate scheme, creating more than 2,500 jobs.

But the roadworks, expected to take a year, ran over by nine months and £5m, taking the total cost to £14m.

The consortium behind the regeneration of the former Black and Decker site has agreed to stump up another £800,000. But that still leaves the council with an unexpected bill for an extra £4.2m.

Council chiefs have blamed the delay and overspend on uncharted underground public utilities, an uncharted underground private water main and harsh winters, among other problems.

But they say the extra millions are worth it to keep the project going.

Ian Thompson, the council’s corporate of regeneration and economic development, said: “We’ve done what we had to do.

“We would have preferred for it to have gone more smoothly but we have faced every challenge head on to keep things moving forward and get the Great North Road open as quickly as possible for residents and businesses.”

Black and Decker had been at Thinford for more than 30 years, at its peak employing more than 2,000 people, when it announced it was moving production abroad in January 2008.

About 300 people are still employed at the site.

But it is hoped the Durham Gate scheme will deliver up to 2,800 new jobs in a 440,000sq ft office development, 376 new homes, an 80-bed hotel and various shops, making it currently one of the biggest regeneration schemes in the North-East.

The A167, which meets the A688 at Thinford roundabout, is the fourth busiest road in County Durham, after the A1(M), the A19 and the A66.

The council has found the extra cash from its £50m capital programme. Mr Thompson said this was available to due underspending in other areas and no other projects were being cancelled to cover the costs.

He also stressed the roadworks issues posed no threat to the Durham Gate development continuing.

Independent councillor John Shuttleworth said officers had no power to authorise the spending and they were spending money as if it was Confetti.

Liberal Democrat Mark Wilkes said it was “another example of complete failure of project management”.

The Northern Echo: An artist's drawing of how DurhamGate will eventually look - as work continues on the regeneration project
An artist's drawing of how DurhamGate will eventually look

Mr Thompson, however, said the council had been open and transparent about the project’s progress and tried to deal with the “huge range of issues” as quickly as possible.

Further roadworks, inside the Durham Gate site, are due to begin next month.

There has been some interest from businesses in moving onto the site but, in the current economic climate, it is thought it could be ten years before the development is fully occupied.