Doomed art gallery faces more delays

COLCHESTER'S over-budget and behind-schedule art gallery faces yet more delays and is unlikely to open before December next year, the EADT can reveal.

Roddy Ashworth

COLCHESTER'S over-budget and behind-schedule art gallery faces yet more delays and is unlikely to open before December next year, the EADT can reveal.

The beleaguered Visual Arts Facility (VAF), which is currently standing unfinished off Queen Street, has already soared �9 million over its original �16.5million price tag and now looks set to be opened at least three years later than planned.

Contractor Banner Holdings Limited, which had had a stormy relationship with Colchester Borough Council, was sacked from the project last month.


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And now another firm has been hired to assess the project and produce a plan to get it finished.

Paul Smith, the councillor who has recently taken on responsibility for the VAF project at the town hall, said he hoped the gallery could be opened in the run-up to Christmas 2010.

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He added, however, that depending on the date of the internal fit-out and the subsequent time it would take arts organisation firstsite to move in and occupy the building, the opening of the VAF could be further delayed until the spring of 2011.

Mr Smith said he firmly believed the gallery would be completed within its revised budget of �25.5million.

The council has already been twice forced to return cap-in-hand to its funders -including the Arts Council and the East of England Development Agency - to ask for extra money with the project.

“We have no more money for this project and nor do the other funders,” he said.

“If necessary, we will have to adjust the specification so it comes in on budget.

“At the moment we believe we can do it 'as was' but we will have to wait for the new report before we know 100%.

“We are hoping that construction work can begin in the autumn.

“We have got to get this project finished for the people of Colchester - if it fails it will cost us a further �15million in repayments, and we cannot afford that.”

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