An offer from contractor Mowlem to kick-start Grimshaw's troubled Bath Spa project by taking complete control of the scheme has met with a frosty response from the city's council.
In yet another twist to the bitter and protracted fiasco, Mowlem has guaranteed to open the Spa within six months of handover for £26 million, well above the original £19 million estimate. The offer is dependent on Mowlem being handed total responsibility for design and build.
The contractor believes the latest offer could bring to a head the legal battle between itself, Grimshaw and Bath and North East Somerset District Council (B&NES) over leaking floors and flaking paint (AJ 8.7.04). It says it has been forced to go public with the offer because B&NES has failed to 'respond promptly', has carried out a 'systematic smear campaign', and attempted 'legal gagging' of Mowlem.
A Mowlem statement reads: 'It [B&NES] has failed to meet with us, failed to respond to our proposal, let key dates pass, voted through yet more funds for legal fees, engaged yet more consultants, and then tried to bully and threaten us into keeping quiet, ' B&NES has continued to fuel the row by insisting Mowlem and Grimshaw are totally to blame for what construction minister Nigel Griffiths branded on Monday a 'national embarrassment'.
A B&NES spokeswoman said: 'You can see from Mowlem's statement that the current issues around the spa are associated with design, workmanship, or a mixture of both.
'We are as frustrated as everyone about the problems with the spa.
This is the first time any sort of figure has been mentioned. It is a complex issue and so needs to be carefully considered by all sides.' Grimshaw has refused to comment on Mowlem's offer. But in a letter to Bath MP Don Foster, Nicholas Grimshaw has reiterated that his practice is not to blame for the debacle.
'By far the most difficult and intractable problem is the issue of workmanship. I agree that the time taken to do this was excessive but I do not accept in any way that any of this delay was due to us, ' Grimshaw told Foster.