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Wednesday, 4 July, 2001, 06:19 GMT 07:19 UK
Architect attacks assembly project

The architect of the Welsh Assembly's new debating chamber planned for Cardiff Bay has launched a scathing attack on the administration's handling of the project.

In a letter to Welsh Finance Minister Edwina Hart, Lord Richard Rogers says the project has been "bedevilled" by officials' attempts to disguise the true costs of changes to the design.

Lord Rogers also warns that the future of the project is seriously threatened.

Sir Richard Rogers:
Sir Richard Rogers: Letter

In the letter which has been leaked to BBC Wales, Lord Rogers, designer of the Millennium Dome and Paris's Pompidou Centre, says he believes his company is getting the blame for the consequences of the increased costs.

This is unacceptable, he tells Mrs Hart.

The cost of building a new chamber for the assembly has risen dramatically from the 17m estimated when the body was voted for four years ago.

Last November the Auditor General for Wales Sir John Bourn warned that the final cost of setting up the National Assembly could reach 41m - a 123% increase on the original estimate.

n a highly critical report, Sir John said there was no fixed budget and no monitoring at a senior level of the costs of converting Crickhowell House in Cardiff Bay to be the Assembly's temporary home.

He said that some costs were grossly understated.

Now Lord Rogers has added his voice of concern, saying the project has been bedevilled by Assembly officials' continuous attempts to disguise the true costs of design changes.

He criticises additional requirements, changes to the design, and the political will to use indigenous materials, at any cost as well as a procurement process that is highly inflexible, adversarial and divisive ,

He says all this has discouraged competitive bidding, and has failed to make use of the design team's extensive experience in ensuring value for money.

Approved budget

He says the project is seriously threatened, and recommends an urgent and comprehensive review, to ensure optimum value to the taxpayer.

He warns the Finance Minister that appropriate procurement procedures must be put in place, if the building is to stay within two point five per cent of the approved budget of just over 13m.

It is the second time the eminent architect has voiced his concerns about the stalled project.

Last year he called for the approval on the new chamber to be speeded up after First Minister Rhodri Morgan decided to review all the options for the siting and costs of the new building.

Then Lord Rogers expressed his wish that the building debate did not become a "political football".

A spokesman for the National Assembly said "The Finance Minister will be reporting the position on costs to the Assembly before the recess. There will be no public comment until then"

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See also:

02 Nov 00 | Wales
Warning Assembly could cost 41m
01 Jun 00 | Wales
Morgan meets Assembly architect
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