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Margate's 'iconic' Turner gallery design axed

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KENT COUNTY Council last week pulled the plug on Margate's offshore Turner art gallery after project costs escalated from £17.6M to £48M.

The gallery will be relocated on land, and has been rebudgeted at £12M.

Kent is writing a new design brief for the development which will now include a hotel and conference centre. The gallery should open in 2008 as planned.

The Turner Contemporary project has been in the pipeline for over five years and has cost Kent £6M to date.

Kent County Council's (KCC) cabinet member responsible for the project Mike Hill said that spending up to £29.5M was considered 'justifiable' but that the current price tag was too much.

The gallery was to be a three storey steel framed building located in the North Sea, 8m away from Margate harbour's breakwater (NCE 15 January 2004). It had to be designed for high wave loads.

Hill said that spending £6M on the original scheme was not money wasted. He said the cost included setting up an arts programme in the area and that this had already brought extra business to Margate.

The art gallery was originally designed by architect Snohetta & Spence with consultant Jane Wernick in 2001.

After planning permission was granted in 2003 the scheme was transferred to WhitbyBird to develop detailed design.

In July 2005 Nuttall was appointed design and build contractor, and in turn used Scott Wilson to develop the design to construction.

WhitbyBird chose to stay with the client as checking engineer rather than be novated.

The two stage design and build contract included an initial stage to determine whether the gallery could be built using allocated funds from the KCC, the Arts Council and South East England Development Authority.

Nuttall mobilised on site last summer and was expected to begin the second part of the contract to build the gallery in Autumn 2005. It is now settling its account with KCC.

Last week, Nuttall told the council that the project cost had escalated because of technical problems with the design.

This meant that Scott Wilson had to carry out extra work.

'We always knew there would be an absolute point [in time] to make the final decision, but we hoped it'd be a price we could afford, ' said Hill.

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