�25m VAF behind schedule again

WORK on the exterior of Colchester's controversial new art gallery is unlikely to be finished by its revised deadline and is already at least a month behind schedule, the EADT can reveal.

Roddy Ashworth

WORK on the exterior of Colchester's controversial new art gallery is unlikely to be finished by its revised deadline and is already at least a month behind schedule, the EADT can reveal.

Yesterday Martin Hunt, the man in charge of the project to build the visual arts facility- which is already millions of pounds over budget - refused to confirm or deny the claims, which were made by a source close to the scheme.

However Mr Hunt, a Colchester Borough councillor who took over the beleaguered project last spring, said that even if the construction period did over-run further, there should be no impact on council tax payers.


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A deadline of May 22 was set for the completion of the VAF's outer shell when a dispute between the council and contractors Banner Holdings Limited was settled last year.

The original dispute had led to months of inactivity on the landmark building's site near Queen Street.

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The cost of completing the VAF, which will house local arts organisation firstsite, has now spiralled from an initial �16.5 million to an estimated �25.5m since work began.

Yesterday Mr Hunt declined to comment on claims that the gallery was now more than four weeks behind the amended schedule.

“This is a very sensitive time for the project and it would not be in any way helpful for me to comment at the moment.

“But I am quite happy to say that I am satisfied in my mind that we have a working contract with Banner, and they have a duty to stick to the dates of the contract unless they apply for an extension.

“Any delay on the project, however, should not have a direct impact on council tax payers as there is a fixed contract with penalty clauses attached.”

The council has already raised an extra �2million to contribute to the additional costs of the landmark gallery by taking out a 50 year Government loan.

Arts Council England has agreed to pay the same, as has Essex County Council, and the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) has agreed to pay up to �750,000.

It is hoped the gallery will open early next year - two years later than originally planned.

Nobody from Banner Holdings Limited was available for comment yesterday.

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