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Spring fears could pull the plug on Bath spa project

Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners' £19 million scheme to return Bath's spa to public use has run into trouble after local conservationists threatened to block the project with legal action this week.

The Bath Spa project went on site on Monday as the Springs Foundation mulled whether to take out a legal injunction to halt works. The foundation's spokeswoman, Margaret Stewart, said that the foundations for the new five-storey building risk damaging the spring system on which the Roman town is built. 'If we lose the hot springs then that is simply part of Britain's national heritage down the drain, ' Stewart said.

The scheme involves the restoration of five listed buildings and the construction of one new building, which will house baths and requires a 7m deep excavation. Project representatives admit that there is a risk of damaging the springs.

'You can't say categorically that there won't be any problems. There is always a risk that you could get spa water into the excavation, ' said project manager Mike Grey. 'It would only be a temporary situation and we would have to deal with it.'

Stewart responded: 'This isn't good enough. We should be able to say categorically with the right experts called in.' She said that the possible problem with the foundations only came to light two weeks ago. In particular, she said the foundations could be illegally deep, even though the project team has permission to dig beyond the town's 5m limit.

Grimshaws declined to comment. The scheme is jointly sponsored by Bath and North East Somerset Council and the Millennium Commission. It is due for completion on 10 May 2002.

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