Art gallery fund raising short fall

EFFORTS to raise an extra �7.5million to finish building Colchester's over-budget art gallery have fallen short to the tune of �750,000, the EADT can reveal.

Roddy Ashworth


EFFORTS to raise an extra �7.5million to finish building Colchester's over-budget art gallery have fallen short to the tune of �750,000, the EADT can reveal.

But yesterday Martin Hunt, the Colchester Borough councillor in charge of the beleaguered project, said he believed it would still be possible to complete the Visual Arts Facility (VAF) in Queen Street - destined to become home of local arts organisation firstsite - and that it would open its doors to the public in the spring of next year.

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Senior members of Essex County Council and Colchester Borough Council attended confidential talks with the board of the East Of England Development Agency (EEDA) on Thursday.

The delegation requested that EEDA should grant an additional �1.5million to complete the controversial building, the costs of which have spiralled from an initial �16.5 million to an estimated �25.5m since work began.

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Colchester Borough Council has already raised �2million to contribute to the project by taking out a 50 year Government loan, Arts Council England have agreed to pay the same and Essex County Council is expected to formally approve an identical grant in the coming weeks.

However the EADT can reveal that EEDA - which has already paid out �5.5million for the project - agreed to pay only half of the �1.5million that the Essex delegation requested.

Yesterday an EEDA spokesman said: “EEDA's Board has agreed in principle to provide up to a maximum additional sum of �750,000 available for the firstsite VAF project.

“Any grants made will be provided strictly on a 'lender of last resort' basis and only after stringent terms and conditions have been satisfied. EEDA is working with partners to determine the detail behind this arrangement.”

“While the project has clearly run into some difficulties in recent months, we continue to work closely with partners to complete the project.”

And Mr Hunt said: “I am still confident the exterior of the VAF will be finished by May 22.

“The figure of �7.5 million that was quoted to fit out the interior is based on a worst-case scenario.

“I am fairly confident that with the state of the building industry at the moment the quotes we get will be lower than that.

“I feel confident that even �6million would be sufficient to go into the market place and find out how much the rest of it is likely to cost.”

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