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Farrell in 'conflict of interest' row

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Accusations of a conflict of interest have delayed a decision to award a £60 million building contract to Terry Farrell, Edinburgh's newly appointed urban design guru.

Edinburgh City Council was expected to approve a competition-winning scheme for CALA-Morrison by Farrell's London practice to double the size of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC).

But last Thursday's decision was postponed after council officers received letters about Farrell's involvement with CALA-Morrison, alleging breaches of procurement rules.

The council's authorities have now vowed to investigate their competition procedures.

The CALA-Morrison consortium, which includes Farrell's designs, narrowly snatched the competition, provoking a heated response from fellow competitors Wilson Bowden Developments and Alan Murray Architects.

In a letter sent to Edinburgh City Council, the competitors' solicitor, Maclay Murray & Spens, claims its clients have 'serious concerns' regarding the procurement procedure.

It added: 'Our clients have drawn to our attention that Terry Farrell, the council's design czar with whom our clients were encouraged to speak regarding planning constraints and development aspects, was already at that point engaged by CALA as its consultant. It would seem to us that he and the council may have had some conflict of interest in this regard.'

During the two-year competition process, the EICC and the council considered submissions from five consortia and it was hoped work would start in the summer of 2005.

However, the council maintains that it adhered to the EU procurement programme for publicly funded projects throughout.

'We received a letter on the day of the meeting and, even though the concerns were not submitted in a formal way, we had a duty to look into them, ' a spokeswoman said. 'The procurement officer will now be ensuring everything has been done correctly.

'However, we followed the EU procurement rules to the letter, ' she added.

A final decision about the CALA-Morrison scheme will not be made until the full council sits again on 19 August. Terry Farrell & Partners refused to comment.

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