Fears as £12m venue runs over budget

HERITAGE campaigners last night voiced their concerns after it emerged a £12million performance venue planned for a west Suffolk was running over budget and behind schedule.

Laurence Cawley

HERITAGE campaigners last night voiced their concerns after it emerged a £12million performance venue planned for a west Suffolk was running over budget and behind schedule.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council wants to build a 500-seat public venue as part of the £105million redevelopment of the former cattle market site in Bury St Edmunds.

The council is currently in talks with the East of England Development Agency to try to get more funding and has approved cost saving measures - called value engineering works - to the tune of £137,000.

Details of these measures, which are thought to include using cheaper materials such as wood veneers rather than solid wood, have been discussed by the council in private.

But the council has now revealed the planned public venue will be delayed because of “design issues”.

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And while the new arc retail and housing scheme, built by construction firm Taylor Woodrow, will be finished next January, the public venue could be delayed by about four months.

Heritage campaigners in the town last night called on the council to avoid “cutting corners” on the project and claimed the town deserved a “first-class” building.

In his report to the council's Bury St Edmunds Town Centre and Cattle Market Working Party, procurement and project manager Mark Walsh said: “The exact duration and causes are still to be agreed but the delay is likely to be more than 20 weeks.

“The completion of the fit-out of the venue will happen later in 2008 and a date will be agreed with a fit-out contractor before appointment once the situation on the shell and core is clearer.”

He said further value engineering works were being currently considered.

Sarah Green, vice chairman of the Bury St Edmunds Society, said: “It is a nightmare situation which sadly was foreseen. I am aware that there is a delay and that the public venue is way over budget.

“It is sad that it is not going to be ready when the rest of the cattle market opens and we are very anxious that we are not going to cut too many corners and come up with a less prestigious building. It has to be first-class and top-quality - how often do you get the chance to build something like this?”

laurence.cawley@eadt.co.uk

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