An end could be in sight to a lengthy dispute between a water company and a local council over a “catastrophic” blunder which saw workmen for the latter accidentally damage a main sewer pipe.

Northumbrian Water lodged a financial claim with Redcar and Cleveland Council over the subsequent costs of the repair work it had to carry out at Cat Nab, Saltburn with the council denying any liability.

The water firm previously made an estimated claim of £420,000, but stressed this was only an “indicative” figure and it could rise, with the council also involving its insurers.The Northern Echo:

A council spokeswoman told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The claim currently remains live, but we anticipate it will be resolved fairly shortly. 

“A report regarding the incident will then be prepared for councillors to consider.”

Northumbrian Water declined to comment.

In November Saltburn councillor Philip Thomson questioned council leader Alec Brown and said no formal explanation had been provided to council members as to how the incident occurred.

He said the damage to the main sewer in the Cat Nab car park by contractors engaged by the council in February 2022 had “catastrophic consequences” which included the building of a temporary treatment plant, extensive reconstruction of pipework and the requirement to close the car park to visitors.

Cllr Thomson said he had made requests for a copy of the drainage layout supplied to the contractor and the method statement issued for the work, but nothing had been handed over by the local authority.

He asked when any results of an investigation would be published and whether a review of procedures had taken place.

Cllr Brown said that “given the potential for litigation” there was a limit to what he could say in case any information shared prejudiced the council’s position.

But he said the intention remained to bring forward a report for members as soon as possible.

Cllr Thomson told the LDRS the matter was down to be discussed at a  resources scrutiny committee meeting taking place at the end of the month, although it may be as part of a “closed session”.

The LDRS previously submitted a Freedom of Information to the council in an effort to establish further facts around the incident.

The council said it had relied on a project design drafted by the third party external contractor with operatives subsequently damaging the pipe during piling work – where foundations are drilled or bored into the ground – for an extension to the car park.

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The council’s corporate director for adults and communities, Patrick Rice commissioned an investigation to be undertaken by its auditors Veritau, but its report and the findings from this have yet to be made public amid concern it could “severely prejudice” the council, the third party contractor and ultimately the taxpayer as a result of any potential legal action.

The Environment Agency has also investigated the events that occurred with the agency having the power to prosecute where environmental breaches are determined.

The sewage water spill that resulted from the accident saw an area cordoned off and the public warned to stay away for their own safety.