Carlisle City Council has attacked a high-profile campaign to save Studio E's innovative but overbudget Hadrian's Bridge as the interference of 'effete polo-necked architects' who have no concept of the area's cash-strapped economy.
The council hit out after a group of designers including Lord Rogers and Chris Wilkinson demanded that the stressed-ribbon bridge should be built despite the fact that it may now cost between £1.8 million and £2 million, breaking its original budget of £738,000. Their pleas came after the council asked the Millennium Commission to scrap the Lottery-backed project because, it claims, the excess cost will have to be met by local taxpayers. The commission's decision on the project was due as the AJ went to press.
Chris Wilkinson, the architect of Gateshead's Millennium Bridge, wrote to Carlisle City Council leader Michael Mitchelson describing the bridge as 'a once only opportunity'. Lord Rogers also fired off letters to Mitchelson and Millennium Commission chairman Chris Smith MP. He wrote: 'I find the Hadrian's Bridge design very beautiful as well as fascinating from an engineering point of view . . . I urge you to continue with this project.'
But council spokesman Howard Reynolds said they are not being realistic. 'This campaign is not going to make the slightest bit of difference. These big names seem to think that Carlisle is to be considered on a par with London and Paris. People here are battling away with a farm crisis and Richard Rogers comes along and thinks we will bombard our community with [extra] council tax bills.
Come on Lord Rogers, give us a million and we'll have a bridge.'
The council has a contract with the Millennium Commission to build the bridge and has already been granted Lottery cash for two other projects as part of the same package of funding. The scheme also has planning permission. Sources close to the project do not think the commission will abandon the scheme easily and may broker a compromise by supplying some extra Lottery funding.