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Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 15:57 GMT
Sacked architects back on project
Lord Rogers design for the new Welsh Assembly buidling
Lord Rogers's design was picked for the new assembly
The architects who were sacked from the project to create the new Welsh Assembly chamber are part of the consortium set to construct the building.

The Richard Rogers Partnership (RRP), run by Lord Rogers, was dismissed from the project - to establish a new home for Wales's 60 AMs - in a row over the rising costs of the scheme.

But the Welsh Assembly Government has announced the preferred bidder to build the administration's new debating chamber is construction firm Taylor Woodrow - with whom RRP is a consultant.

Nobody wants this project and I was stunned to hear that Richard Rogers is involved in this again

Tory group leader, Nick Bourne

Finance Minister Edwina Hart said it was hoped a fixed-price contract could be agreed with the company by June and building work could begin in July with construction completed by July 2005.

The likely appointment of Taylor Woodrow represents another remarkable twist in the tale of the proposed Cardiff Bay chamber.

In 1998, RRP won an architectural competition to design the building.

The design was picked by a panel of assessors chaired by former Labour premier Lord Callaghan.

The assembly originally put 12m aside for the building, but costs rose to 26.7m by November 2000, and a later estimate put the real figure at 37m-47m.

Lord Rogers design for the new Welsh Assembly buidling
An aerial view of how the new chamber will look

But in July 2001, Lord Rogers' firm was sacked from the project because of concerns over the escalating estimated costs - something which the Labour peer has always denied was the responsibility of his company.

Lord Rogers then brought an action against the assembly, saying it owed his firm in unpaid fees.

An adjudicator ruled that Lord Roger's firm was entitled to a payment of 448,000, in addition to 2.5m in fees already paid out.

The announcement of Taylor Woodrow's involvement has been welcomed by Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats.

But the Welsh Conservatives said it was disgraceful that Lord Rogers was back on board as a result of Ms Hart's decision.

Second bidder

In announcing the decision, Mrs Hart said it was a "major step forward" for the project, which has been hampered by rows over costs and contracts.

"Over the next few months, Taylor Woodrow will continue to develop the design to the point that I can be satisfied that the proposals meet the assembly's expectations in terms of quality, suitability and within the accepted timetable.

Mrs Hart said the next stage was to develop a final cost plan with the assembly's own consultants and arrive at a figure offering "maximum value for money".

Once that was achieved, steps would be taken to finalise the contract - but if talks broke down, negotiations would be opened with the second bidder, north Wales-based firm David McLean.

Mrs Hart concluded: "The people of Wales want to be there is a cost criteria for their money. Everything I have taken is calculated to give that necessary assurance."

'Stunned'

Tory group leader Nick Bourne said: "Nobody wants this project and I was stunned to hear that Richard Rogers is involved in this again.

"We know the history there, how much you cost us - hundreds of thousands of pounds - in the dispute with Richard Rogers, which had to be funded by the Welsh tax-payer."

Dafydd Wigley, Plaid Cymru AM for Caernarfon, said: "May I welcome that at long last we are moving forward with this building, one that everyone with any sense working here knows full well is needed."

Doug Weston, Director of Taylor Woodrow Construction, said: "This is great news and we've every confidence that if appointed as the contractor we will able to deliver the project on time and within budget."

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BBC Wales' Penny Roberts
"Despite the costly legal battle over the sacking, which he sacked, Richard Rogers is back on board."

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