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Delays and cost concerns hit Welsh assembly project

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Revised plans have been prepared for the £12.5 million Richard Rogers-designed new National Assembly for Wales building at Cardiff Bay, but opposition assembly members are anxious about spiralling costs and delays.

Liberal Democrat member Peter Black said: 'I'm concerned about how much extra cost is going to be incurred by further delays.' He argues that it is possible that the new chamber won't be completed until 2003 - two years late. The design is not yet at final approval stage and discussions continue between the architects and assembly officials.

But there is also significant concern over the final cost of the building and its facilities, with some assembly members predicting that it will run substantially over budget. Glyn Davies, Conservative finance spokesman in the assembly, said he has consulted construction industry professionals who estimate that the final overall cost could be as much as £30 million, more than twice its original budget.

An assembly official declined to comment on that forecast, saying only that the 'cost of the building will be known when the final design brief is agreed'. The official line is that preliminary work on the site is expected to start by June this year with completion scheduled for late 2001. The new building would then be ready for occupation in early 2002, still a year later than planned originally.

But Davies warned that planning and building- specification approval would take time. Not until then can the project be put out to competitive tender, bringing another delay. James Leeson of the Richard Rogers Partnership maintained that everything is on track for an early agreement on the final plans and their approval by assembly members. The architect met the four assembly party leaders last month and outlined plan changes made to accommodate assembly members' concerns.

David Fanning

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