WORK TO save the Leaning Tower of Pisa has been given the green light after bureaucratic problems last month put the stabilisation project in jeopardy.
Despite successful preliminary work to prove the soil extraction technique beneath the 14th century tower's foundations, delays in rubber-stamping the necessary legislation meant that the project did not have the mandate or funding to continue.
The Italian government 'steam-rollered' the necessary changes in legislation after an international media uproar over one of the most hotly-debated restoration projects in the world.
Speaking before the latest decision, Professor John Burland of Imperial College London, who is leading the technical team, explained that without the mandate, contracts for the main stabilisation work could not be awarded.
Preliminary stabilisation (Ground Engineering October 1998) saw a system of temporary steel cables wrapped around the tower as a safety measure before material was excavated from 12 holes drilled beneath the central 5m of the foundation. This induced controlled subsidence under the northern (up-tilt) side.
The lean had already been reduced by more than 100 arc seconds, five times the original target, during this period.
Extending the work across the full 20m foundation width will eventually cost between £2M and £3M but should reduce tilt by 0.5degrees, cutting stress in the masonry by 10% and allowing the 830t of lead to be removed from the northern side of the tower.