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Hart hits out over Rogers row

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The war of words over the Welsh Assembly has stepped up a gear after Edwina Hart (right), the assembly's finance minister responsible for throwing the Richard Rogers Partnership off the project, denied accusations that the practice had been kept in the dark over budget matters.

Hart also said that she had received 'a lot' of interest from other architects interested in taking the scheme forward, although she was still trying to have a 'grown-up' relationship with RRP. Discussions with the practice are continuing with a view to reinstating the original design team.

One of RRP's biggest complaints has been that officials refused to discuss financial matters in front of them. In fact, the architects have complained that they were asked to leave meetings when cost issues arose. Speaking to the AJ, Hart described this accusation as 'untrue'. 'The project steering group obviously had to discuss off the record issues to do with fees, but in terms of the building they were fully involved, ' she claimed.

Hart described a three-day workshop earlier this year at which all interested parties were 'fully involved'. She was surprised to hear complaints that RRP had not been privy to full discussions about rising costs.

But Marco Goldschmied, speaking to the AJ earlier, persisted in his claim that RRP had been barred from important financial discussions.

'We didn't ask for a reason. Had I been at the meetings I would a) have asked for a reason, and b) written to them to say they should be more sensible. Maybe we should have acted more forcibly than we did, ' he said.

Hart said she was saddened by the turn of events but stressed that she was acting in the best interests of the Welsh people. And she denied that it would be embarrassing if (as she plans) the principality found itself renting its own assembly building from a private developer. 'The only embarrassment I would suffer is if millions were spent and I was asked why I was spending money on something when I should have spent it on something else. I can't justify [the expense], ' she said. 'You've got to have the public behind you.'

Hart is planning to place an advert in OJEC if discussions with RRP come to nothing.

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