A COUNCIL has claimed utility companies cannot be trusted to carry out preparatory work on major junction following the Kent Elms debacle.

A spokesman for Southend Council confirmed its own staff will carry out initial work on the £5million Bell junction improvements, following long delays and high costs, after a series of errors during the ongoing A127 junction project.

The spokesman said: “Instead of relying on utilities plans and commissioning ground-penetrating radar surveys, when we prepare for highways works at the Bell, our own in-house highways officers will drill an extensive series of boreholes to establish with greater certainly the exact location and depth of pipes and cables under the road and pavements.”

Independent councillor Stephen Aylen has called for an inquiry into Kent Elms to learn lessons and find out who is actually to blame after work to install a new footbridge was delayed until January next year.

It followed holes being dug at wrong depths, inaccurate plans and the discovery of a major water main where the work was due to take place.

Councillor Aylen said: “The Kent Elms junction improvements have been a complete mess with I believe a very badly lead team overseeing the project.

“Should there not be an inquiry into how this was allowed to happen and if we need to replace staff that are not up to standard?”

A spokesman for campaign group Saxon King in Priory Park added: “The latest news from Southend Council is more expensive delays at Kent Elms Corner due to council planning incompetence.

“We could laugh at their ineptitude but sadly it’s not funny as yet again it will be the people of Southend who will be picking up the huge bill for the council’s latest epic failure.

A council spokesman said: “The Kent Elms project has taken much longer than any of us would have liked, largely due to elements outside our direct control.

“This includes utility companies taking much longer to move their pipes and cables than originally estimated, severe weather, and water mains being in a different location from that indicated on plans.

“Rather than a potentially long and expensive inquiry, what we must do is ensure that we learn lessons from the delays at Kent Elms and apply these to future highways projects, such as the proposed upgrade of The Bell junction.” A consultation for Bell junction improvements will be announced next week.