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Diana fountain cost estimates 'ignored'

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) ignored initial cost estimates for the controversial Diana Fountain as it ran £2.2 million over budget, it has emerged.

It was revealed that the DCMS forced through cuts to keep Gustafson Porter's Hyde Park scheme on target to meet its original £3 million budget, despite initial estimates of £5 million.

A source close to the project told the AJ's stablemate magazine QS Week: 'The quantity surveyor costed it and it was more than the budget. [The government] said it had to be built. Everything that was cut out to get close to the budget, they had to put back again.

'The value engineering was in the fountain mechanics, which kept blocking, and the footpaths, which were initially taken out and had to be put back in. The initial cost estimates were about what it has actually cost.

The revelation of the final £5.2 million price, made at a House of Commons Public Accounts Committee last week, sparked angry criticism from MPs, who branded the fiasco a 'balls-up' (

see article here).

The source also claimed that budgets became so tight that co-designer Arup accepted a proposal to cut their fees by 10 per cent. A spokesman for Arup said it was investigating these claims.

'It got to the point where we couldn't cut construction costs further,' the source added.

Director of projects for Royal Parks and project manager for the scheme, Greg McErlean, admitted that the DCMS was aware the budget was under pressure and had asked the US designer, Kathryn Gustafson, to cap her fees.

'The design team agreed a cap of their fee just before they started construction. We asked them to convert that into a lump sum. We didn't cut it,' said McErlean.

McErlean argued that unseen costs, including a £460,000 VAT bill and the £250,000 opening ceremony, had added to other expensive design issues: 'We insisted granite be used instead of Portland stone, which is what the architect preferred.

'The fountain was good quantity surveying in whole-life costing terms,' claimed McErlean.

by Christina Taylor

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