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RHWL's Crystal Palace scheme costs climb

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Costs on the controversial Crystal Palace multiplex leisure scheme have risen from £60 million to about £75 million, according to reports from a magistrates' hearing into the scheme.

The increase was revealed at a drinks licences hearing by Geoff Springer, director of the scheme's developer, London & Regional Properties. It casts doubt on recent accusations from opponents that architect RHWL has cheapened the scheme following the award of detailed planning permission.

RHWL replaced the original architect, Ian Ritchie, earlier this year, triggering complaints from local campaigners that the developer of the cinema, bars and restaurants complex wanted to cut costs on details.

But now a source close to the scheme says that this is not the case, that more cash is to be pumped into the project and that the original Ritchie designs are being followed closely. A final construction cost has yet to be set and negotiations with the contractor are still continuing.

The source said that increases in costs of raw materials, in particular glass, during the past six months had contributed to the increase in costs as well as the fact that contractors had quoted higher tender prices than usual because of a 'fear factor' related to the job, caused by the vociferous local campaign against the scheme as well as negative press coverage.

The Crystal Palace campaign secured support from the European Commission for its cause when Brussels officials wrote this autumn to the local authority, claiming that Bromley was in breach of a European directive regarding the need for environmental impact assessment.

The commission's intervention followed the conclusion of an 18-month investigation into complaints made to it by the campaign. London mayor Ken Livingstone is also opposed to the scheme, which includes plans for a 20-screen multiplex. 'The campaign is putting every obstacle they can in our way, ' the source said. Separately, a consortium involving architect Tarsem Flora is developing alternative plans for the site with fewer cinemas and more underground development.

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