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Spence escapes Turner gallery legal row

Stephen Spence of Spence Associates will not be dragged into a costly legal battle alongside Norwegian co-designer Snøhetta over the failed Turner Contemporary art centre in Margate.

The London-based architect has surprisingly been omitted from the High Court writ issued by Kent County Council to recover £5.8 million in ‘wasted’ design costs following the collapse of the gallery scheme in February 2006.

The authority blames Snøhetta for the spiralling budget on the ambitious seafront project, up from £7,399,000 – as stated on its 2001 competition-winning entry – to at least £25 million by the time the plug was pulled.

Snøhetta co-founder Kjetil Thorsen confirmed that Spence, who has been cited as a joint designer throughout the long-running saga, would not be involved. He said: ‘We are the primary lead consultants and Stephen Spence won’t have legal proceedings brought against him.

He added: ‘I have to say, we’re very surprised that it has gone to court. It’s a strange case. But we’re confident [of winning].’

Meanwhile, Spence admitted he had not been ‘put on notice with regards to proceedings’, but was still planning to meet up with Snøhetta’s lawyers in the next fortnight.

The council has made a twin-pronged attack on the Norwegian firm. It alleges that Snøhetta should have told the authority on 8 December 2003 that the original proposal for a concrete structure, clad in wood, could not be built. The council also claims that, in February 2004, Snøhetta omitted to advise it of the ‘correct’ extra costs of changing the pebble-shaped gallery to an all-steel structure.

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