Breakthrough in VAF project

THE organisations behind a beleaguered gallery project have welcomed the near completion of its exterior.

Colchester’s Visual Arts Facility, known as the VAF, started out with a budget of just over �16milllion but will cost at least �10million more than that by the time its complete.

Work started in June 2006 and yesterday the exterior of the building – which backers are now referring to as Firstsite – was nearly finished.

However in a statement Colchester Borough Council admitted there were some “finishing touches” still needed to the outside.

An official opening is now scheduled for next summer with the work inside due to start in the next couple of weeks.

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When the building opens it will include a restaurant, auditorium, and exhibitions.

The funders - the borough council, Essex County Council, Arts Council England, East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and University of Essex said yesterday they were “clearly delighted” with the milestone.

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Paul Smith, in charge of resources and diversity at the borough council, said: “All the major structural tests have now been undertaken, including the air tightness test which have all been passed.”

Fiona Bryant, EEDA area director for Essex said: “We welcome the news of the completion of the external building of firstsite.

“When complete next year it will be a major cultural attraction for the town and the region, bringing visitors and wealth to the area and increasing trade for local businesses.”

And Wayne Warner, Firstsite’s commercial director, said: “It’s a significant step towards the completion of this landmark building for Colchester.

“We’re confident that the spectacular new venue will drive the economic regeneration of our town, and become a bustling hub for culture and business that will create jobs and foster civic pride.”

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