TOWN Hall bosses have been accused of underestimating the cost of recovering bodies from the site of a major road project by £1.2million.

Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr David Foster is alarmed the budget for exhuming human remains from under the line of the Freckleton Street Link Road giving Blackburn’s Wainwright "Bridge to Nowhere" a destination, appears to be overspent.


He dismissed claims by Blackburn with Darwen’s regeneration boss, Cllr Phil Riley that the apparent huge "overspend was an accounting technicality" as "playing with words".

The £7million highway opened in February after archaeologists discovered 1,967 bodies and a "treasure trove" of jewellery and other items including a time capsule full of 1,820 coins in St Peter’s burial ground.

Cllr Foster, who said he has long been concerned that initial council estimates for the number of remains and the cost of the works were inadequate, raised the issue with Cllr Riley at the full Blackburn with Darwen Council Forum.

He had been studying the budgeted figure for the archaeological, exhumation and reburial work of £400,000 against final out-turn sum of £1.6 million.

The LibDem leader asked Cllr Riley to explain why the archaeological cost of Freckleton Street extension was £1.2million over budget.

Cllr Riley replied: “This is not an issue of overspend.

“Costs were anticipated, so were within tender sums.

“It is a programming issue as to where costs are allocated.

“The project was tendered and planned for, based on a worst-case scenario of 2,000 remains to be removed.

“The winning tender produced a price for the worst case scenario of £1.6million."

“Works for the exhumation/treatment of remains from St Peter’s graveyard were proposed to be funded from the general Property Acquisitions captial programme budgets established for the Freckleton Street Link Road Project.

“The reason for this approach was the high degree of uncertainly as to the number of bodies that would require removal.

“We now know that the out turn cost of the archaeology will approach the worst case scenario of £1.6million, hence the difference.

“Therefore the out turn costs of the archaeological works at Freckleton Street have been circa £1.2 million higher than expected in the context of the budget from which to works were Cllr Riley added: “This is an accounting matter not an overspend.”

Cllr Foster said: “They are playing with words.

“There was a budget for archaeology and exhumation and it was overspent by £1.2million.

“Various councillors and officers have told me different things about ground conditions, that it was due to the number of bodies and even that it was case of underfunding not overspending.

“I am concerned that councillor and executive members were not in full possession of all the financial and other relevant information before a decision was made on the route of this road.”