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Lift defects add to Spinnaker woe

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Up to £660,000 of income has been lost on the notorious Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth because of an extensive series of problems with the landmark's external lift.

A catalogue of defects has kept the Spinnaker's glass viewing lift out of action since the £36 million tower, designed by HGP Architects/ Harrington Design with civil engineer Scott Wilson, opened five years late last summer.

If every one of the 330,000 visitors so far had paid the extra £2 to use the external lift, it would have represented a massive extra income stream for the contentious project.

Problems include ongoing electrical faults, temperamental air-conditioning and winds plaguing the lift's pulley system.

Use of the lift has now been suspended indefinitely - just two weeks after main contractor Mowlem officially handed it over to operator Heritage Projects.

Portsmouth City Council's deputy planning manager, Simon Reynolds, admitted the lift system had broken down '30 or 40 times' during the commissioning stage but said the council was 'not upset about that'.

He said: 'Heritage Projects is losing on the premium it charges people for choosing to go up (the glass lift). There are difficulties with wind speeds and direction which, for example, caused problems with the rope-management system, blowing ropes out of guides.

'We did not have this wind direction during construction. It is damned annoying. We have to consider the amount of annoyance we are prepared to put the public to. There is no date set for its opening. To give a firm date is the kiss of death,' he added.

Heritage Projects attempted to play down the difficulties insisting they were 'technical and nothing serious'.

According to Reynolds, the team behind the new Brighton Marina Tower, designed by Wilkinson Eyre, is now following the Spinnaker's misfortunes 'very closely'.

Reynolds warned that the Brighton development 'has one big lift system, which is their bottleneck'.

The loss of income at Spinnaker will infuriate local taxpayers. The 170m-tall tower raced £11 million over budget to £36 million and residents are footing the bill for the excess.

Originally Spinnaker was to be christened the Millennium Tower and delivered in time for Portsmouth Harbour's 2,000th anniversary celebrations. But it opened last summer, rebranded as the Spinnaker - long after the party guests had gone home.

by Clive Walker

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