Author Bio ▼

Jamie Hailstone is a freelance journalist and author, who has also contributed to numerous national business titles including Utility Week, the Municipal Journal, Environment Journal and consumer titles such as Classic Rock.

December 14, 2018

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EastEnders safety concerns raised by watchdog

The condition of the external film set used for the BBC1 soap opera EastEnders has led to health and safety concerns.

A report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) warns the outdoors set is in such poor condition that there have been delays in filming “due to health and safety concerns”.

The original set was built in 1984 and originally expected to last two years.

“Degradation has led to increasing filming delays owing to stoppages in production due to health and safety concerns, and there are ongoing maintenance costs to ensure filming can continue,” the report states.

Building a new set with health and safety improvements

In 2013, the BBC proposed building a temporary set, two-thirds of the size of the existing external filming site, called E20, while it constructed a new permanent set.

It expected E20 to cost £59.7 million and to be completed by August 2018, but in October 2017, the BBC reported internally that its revised plans were no longer achievable due to forecast delays and cost increases.

As a result of more realistic plans, the BBC now forecasts E20 will cost £86.7 million – 45% more than the original budget.

“The BBC considers E20 as critically important as it has the intended benefits of: maintaining EastEnders’ competitiveness; allowing new technology and high-definition filming to be used; and introducing design, structural and health and safety improvements,” the report states.

Asbestos and other challenges

The BBC has also faced issues such as higher than expected inflation in the construction sector, as well as asbestos and obstructions in the ground which to some extent were unforeseen by the programme team, partly due to poor site records.

Inflation has had a greater impact than it would have done had the programme completed without any delays.

“The BBC will not be able to deliver value for money on E20 in the way that it originally envisaged,” said NAO head, Amyas More.

“It is surprising that some of the reasons for this were built in from the beginning. Despite recent project management improvements, E20 is late and over budget against its 2015 plans. We believe that the planned benefits are still broadly achievable, but given the high-risk nature of E20 it will need close scrutiny until it is finished.”

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