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Former MP joins the barrage of criticism; 'City's moral duty to get it working again'.

Byline: Adrian Pearson

CITY officials have "a moral duty" to ensure a pounds 4m unused Quayside barrage is brought back into working use, a former MP has claimed.

Former Newcastle Central MP Jim Cousins hit out after it emerged Newcastle Council had left the Ouseburn Barrage unused for 20 months.

The regeneration project was opened in 2009 some pounds 1m over budget. And 15 months later it was out of action and has remained so ever since.

While city officials say they will carry out an inspection and look to bring it back into working order, Mr Cousins say this does not go far enough.

He said: "I was one of those who had serious concerns about this project but now that we have it here and it has taken up resources which could have been better used there is a moral duty on the council to see the barrage kept in working order."

Mr Cousins was one of those who in 2007 was threatened with legal action by the council when officers there grew fed up of costly challenges to its decision to go ahead with the barrage.

At the time he warned the river banks would be unable to cope with the pressure, as well as sewage concerns also expressed, and in 2010 those fears came true when a section of the bank had to be reinforced.

Council officials have insisted this related to the age and fragility of the wall and did not have anything to do with pressure on the barrage.

When plans for the barrage were going through the council included an option to fund the project through developer contributions, bringing in pounds 32,000 towards the scheme.

Mr Cousins said: "We were always told there would be a barrage levy placed on those nearby to help build this. Well, it has not been working, does anyone get repaid as a result? "This whole incident shows what happens when an authority does not listen to those who have legitimate concerns."

Mr Cousins said that European funds used to help build the barrage come with strict rules, and could mean that "as well as a moral obligation there is also a potentially very expensive legal obligation to keep the barrage going."

A council spokesman said: "The council's maintenance arrangement for the Ouseburn Barrage with its current external contractor will come to an end once the outstanding repairs and maintenance work is completed early next month. The council will be working urgently on procuring specialist external support for the future maintenance of the barrage.

"The successful bidder for this work will need to convince the council that they will deal with any operational and maintenance issues as a matter of urgency within tight timescales which will be part of the contract conditions. Any failure to achieve this will result in financial penalties being imposed."

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INTERVENTION Jim Cousins AT A STANDSTILL The barrage has not worked for 20 months
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jul 28, 2012
Words:493
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