The BBC’s project to rebuild and enlarge the Eastenders set will be £27m over budget and take an extra two-and-a-half years to complete.
The cost estimate for the construction project has soared 45 per cent from £59.7m to £86.7m, the National Audit Office (NAO) said today.
The expected completion date of the project, known as E20, has been moved back from this year to 2023.
“The BBC will not be able to deliver value for money on E20 in the way that it originally envisaged,” said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.
“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.”
The broadcaster unveiled plans to rebuild the outdoor filming set, which includes the famous Albert Square, due to its poor condition.
The degradation of the set means the BBC is unable to film in high-definition and has caused delays to filming.
The BBC only intended to use the original set, which is located at the broadcaster’s Elstree studios in Hertfordshire, for two years.The new set will feature real brick buildings, rather than the existing facades.
The NAO criticised the BBC for underestimating the cost and complexity of the construction project, but added some issues, such as asbestos and obstructions in the ground, could not have been foreseen.
“We recognise that this complexity has brought challenges, impacting both cost and timelines,” the BBC said in a statement.
“The BBC has made many improvements to the programme including across the governance, stakeholder engagement, scheduling and budgeting, as the NAO has acknowledged.
“We are also pleased that the NAO conclude that the benefits remain achievable.”