ANOTHER £800k has had to be allocated to pay for the final stage of a state-of-the-art £29 million sports park due to delays caused by coronavirus, it has been revealed.

Additional funds are needed to complete the Northern Gateway Sports Park, just off the A12 at junction 28, which was originally due to open in January.

However, delays to the final stages of works mean the state-of-the-art facility will now open at Easter and have also meant another £800,000 must be added to the £28.7 million budget for the project.

The cash will be transferred from the funding kitty for the Northern gateway South site, which will see hundreds of homes, a care home, healthcare facilities and business units built at Colchester Rugby Club, which is moving to the new sports park.

Colchester Conservative leader Paul Dundas asked the authority’s cabinet to explain why the additional funding was needed at a meeting on Monday.

David King, business and resources boss, said the Covid-19 pandemic was responsible for much of the additional costs.

He said: “For a programme of this size coming towards its close, it is not unusual or exceptional, like it or not, for there to be issues around the closure of the final legs of any kind of complex programme, and this is no different.

“What is different is the compounding effect of a crisis which has effected much of the last year of the project.

“Covid has made a real impact, from the elongation of work, to affecting the ways in which people can work and thus to the cost. The costs have come down the supply chain to us, given this is our contract.”

Delays to the works have also been caused due to highways approvals needed for the works around junction 28, where new pedestrian access routes are being created.

Mr King said: “These are essential things which must be done but the costs are not in our control.

“There is, there was and there will be a flexibility in the many moving parts which make up a significant programme like this.

“There will no immediate impact elsewhere, it was always to be expected as we get towards the end of the Northern Gateway project we would ensure it could be closed properly.”

“This is three per cent or so of the sum of the project value we are talking about.”

A spokesman for Colchester Council said: "The funding transfer moves funds between project budgets for works associated with the final stages of completion of the Northern Gateway Sports Park, including additional highways works required to provide safe pedestrian and vehicle access, and additional costs from the impact of coronavirus restrictions on the site.

“Savings made against infrastructure works across the wider Northern Gateway scheme will ensure the overall project remains on budget.

"The Northern Gateway Sports Park is a fantastic project, now nearing completion, which will provide state-of-the-art facilities for residents and visitors and help shape healthy, active lifestyles.

“The funding will ensure we can finish as planned and open this superb facility next year.”