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THE TRUE COST OF TURNER DEBACLE

AGENDA

In the final days of the doomed Turner Contemporary project all sorts of incredible figures were being bandied about.

Depending on who you asked, Snøhetta and Spence Associates' proposed gallery off Margate pier in Kent, which they won in a competition in 2001, was going to burden the taxpayer with a bill for anything up to £50 million.

In the event, the final estimate, handed to Kent County Council (KCC) by Design and Build contractor Edmund Nuttall in February this year, was £39 million.

The scheme had more than doubled in cost since Nuttall's appointment in July 2005, when it estimated construction costs of £17.5 million - and had shot up by over £18 million from the revised estimate of £20.35 million in October 2005, which came as soaring steel prices caused the budget to swell.

These figures were shocking enough for KCC to ditch the project - at a cost of four years' work and nearly £6 million down the drain.

Now, nine months after the demise of this ambitious and increasingly expensive project, an in-depth technical report has been released examining what went wrong and what led to the astronomical rise in costs.

The document, unusually, considering the size of the eventual budget, accounts for almost every penny of the price hike (see table opposite).

What appears to be the root cause of most of the increases are some seriously beefed-up specifications.

The authority demanded that the gallery building, which would have sat in the unforgiving North Sea, had to be designed to withstand a one-in-10,000-year storm - or 'superstorm'.

These exacting standards, the AJ has been told, were higher than Nuttalls would usually have expected.

However, having been given these criteria, the contractor also applied the one-in-10,000-year rigour to the link bridge and pierside building. This meant more steel, piling, and concrete was needed.

It could be argued Nuttalls had over-engineered the project.

Yet there are indications that Snøhetta and Spence designed an unworkable scheme.

According to the report, there were a number of 'significantly problematic design issues' which had still not been resolved when the plug was finally pulled.

The council thought there were still potential risks, which could have led to yet further costs, concerning the external paint finish to the gallery hull.

No one had managed to supply a satisfactory warranty for the paintwork, despite testing with three international specialists.

Even so, the council must have known about some of these potential issues before Nuttalls was handed the job.

Especially when, it is claimed, KCC was given professional advice throughout the process.

Why then, as steel prices rose, did the bigwigs press on throwing money at the gallery knowing the cost of the project could only spiral?

The issue of outright blame is murky. The council's lawyers appear not to know who to sue and are still considering a thirdparty review 'before any action can be taken to? recover some or all of the costs'.

Meanwhile, the council is maintaining it did everything by the book. Edmund Nuttall is saying the same thing. And both architects are keeping their mouths shut.

Others have not been so reticent. Clive Hart, a member of KCC's cabinet scrutiny committee, is appalled at what he sees as the waste of taxpayers' money frittered away on an obvious nonstarter.

He said: 'It was just an ego trip for architects, and the leadership at both the county council and Thanet District Council were completely taken in by it all.'

He added: 'Anyone reading the report should note that each page equates to around a million pounds wasted.'

WHERE THE EXTRA CASH WOULD HAVE GONE

Gallery piling - £5.65 million The proposals required 45m-long piles welded together. The piling method had changed from a pier-based rigger crane to barges Gallery building steelwork and link bridge - £4.65 million An additional 1,200 tonnes of steel was specified in the new budget Pier-side building structure - £1.8 million The council said the method of constructing the concrete frame would have been 'extremely expensive' and too labour intensive Building service - £1.15 million The need for extra toilets and larger plant size was identified, plus changes to the sea-water cooling, fire detection and alarm systems Link bridge bearings - £1.05 million A 'unique' set of bearings would have been needed at each end of the bridge, capable of withstanding a 'superstorm' Gallery substructure concrete - £550,000 Mass concrete infilling and divers working 24 hours a day would have been needed to connect the piles to the steel superstructure Longer construction period - £500,000 Phase two of construction was months longer than originally planned Partitions, linings and ceilings - £400,000 Subcontract tenders were 'well in excess' of cost allowances Pier-side building piling - £400,000 The construction would have depended on 54 temporary piles through the pier - most to support a rail-mounted tower crane Staircases, handrails and balustrades - £400,000 The council received 'very limited' details of these price hikes Existing pier revamp - £350,000 Repair, cleaning, toe piling and stonework costs were all high Temporary works during construction - £350,000 Extra health-and-safety measures, including safety boats, required Temporary utilities - £300,000 The contractor proposed using generators on site rather than setting up a temporary mains supply Rock armour - £150,000 The need for special armour around the base of the gallery to limit 'local erosion' of the sand was identified

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