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EDITIONS
Friday, 8 November, 2002, 07:19 GMT
Action against chamber architect backed
Planned Welsh Assembly debating government debating chamber
Estimatesd costs of the chamber have reached 47m
The Welsh Assembly Government spent more than 250,000 pounds on legal fees during their dispute with Richard Rogers, after the architect was sacked from the project to build a new debating chamber in Cardiff Bay.

Although they lost the case, a new report by the Auditor General for Wales Sir John Bourn backs the assembly government's decision to take legal action.

Richard Rogers
Lord Rogers has joined a consortium

The final cost is not yet known, he says, expressing concern over the delays in the project.

The estimated costs of the building have already risen from 12m up to 47m and the project more than four years behind schedule.

The update report on the building makes clear that more delays are on the way: "As time passes the date when the assembly is likely to take up occupation of the new building is further delayed."

It says a better picture of the cost will come when bids are in.

"The current likely total forecast cost of the project will become clearer when bids for the contract to develop the design and complete the building work have been received and evaluated."

First Minister Rhodri Morgan
Rhodri Morgan proposed a cheaper option

The Richard Rogers Partnership served notice of adjudication to the Assembly for payment of disputes invoices totalling 529,000.

The assembly took legal advice and fought the claim, then served a counter claim to recover fees paid to the firm and damages.

The assembly lost the adjudication but the Auditor General for Wales, Sir John Bourn, said it had taken appropriate advice and acted reasonably.

The move cost the assembly 267,000 in fees.

But Sir John said in light of the advice it received from the Office of the Counsel General and its solicitors, the assembly considered that it was duty bound to take action to protect the public purse.

Problems

Sir John said: "I am satisfied the assembly took appropriate advice and was justified in taking the decision it did.

"It may be disappointing that there will be further delays until the opening of the new building, but it is a positive sign that the assembly has restructured the management arrangements for the project."

The whole project has been beset by problems.

The Welsh Office originally set aside 12m for the building.

In November 2000 the cost rose to 26.7m. But the assembly has put the likely cost at 37m-47m.

It was originally expected to be completed in April 2001, but that was later put back to January 2003.

However, in October, it was revealed that it is not now expected to be opened until September 2005. Work will start in October 2003.

Scaled-down

A number of firms have now been invited to tender for the contract and two will be shortlisted and asked to submit costs and design plans in January.

It is understood one of the firms invited to tender is Taylor Woodrow, backed by Lord Rogers.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan had put the project on hold but the assembly rejected his proposal to build a scaled-down building.

Lord Rogers has already been paid 2.5m in fees that were linked to the cost of the building.

Welsh Assembly Chamber Row

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