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Confusion surrounds Wear Bridge scheme

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Speculation is growing over the future of Spence Associates' and Techniker's competition-winning Wear Bridge scheme in Sunderland.

It has been more than a year since the pair won the high-profile contest, and rumours are rife that Sunderland City Council cannot afford to build the project.

The delays and confusion about the progress of the scheme follow years of controversy surrounding the much-needed fourth Wear crossing, starting back in early 2004 when Frank Gehry was earmarked for the scheme (AJ 11.03.04).

The latest questions were raised back in July when the authority confirmed it had asked the design team, which saw off Gehry and others in last year's design competition, to 'reduce the estimated costs' of the £43 million scheme.

A spokesman for the council has now admitted the authority is still locked in talks with clients Sunderland arc and One NorthEast 'to finalise the budget position' - a situation that has not changed since the summer.

According to the city council, the authority has also asked Spence and Techniker to 'develop some of the technical aspects of the design'.

However, a spokeswoman for the designers said that there had never been any 'technical issues' with their proposed crossing design.

She said 'A detailed peer review of the technical design and costs was called for and completed by Mott Macdonald. The scheme was found to be practical and within the competition budget.

'Because Sunderland City Council requested the costs of the winning design to be reduced, Spence Associates and Techniker were commissioned to-further investigate some of the technical aspects to reduce costs and [consider] alternative construction methods.'

An in-depth look at what is happening at the Wear Crossing can be found in this week's AJ, published tomorrow (21.09.06).

by Richard Waite

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