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Troubled Spinnaker Tower overstretched Portsmouth Council

PROBLEMS WITH construction of Portsmouth's landmark Spinnaker Tower could have been the result of the city council's decision to procure it in-house.

Portsmouth City Council chief executive Nick Gurney told an internal inquiry that Portsmouth had 'overstretched itself' by managing the project in house.

It wanted to avoid paying 'expensive external managers', he said.

The project to build the 165m high asymmetric Spinnaker Tower lurched into crisis in May when contractor Mowlem demanded an extra £2.75M to complete the £22.75M project.

A price for the design and build contract had not been fixed as a formal contract had not been signed. Mowlem had started work after receiving a letter of intent to award a contract, but has argued that this was not contractually binding (NCE 16 May ).

Portsmouth took on the management of the project after developer Berkeley pulled out of a deal to build, operate and finance the tower in 1998.

Had a larger, external team without other responsibilities managed the project the city council 'may have had earlier warning' of the contract wrangles, said the council. As it was Portsmouth said that Mowlem's claim came 'out of the blue'.

Mowlem asked for more cash after it emerged that the planned rack and pinion lift would need to be replaced with a more expensive conventional lift.

Other design and technical issues relating to the asymmetric structure's eccentric loadings had added to the cost.

The Millennium Commission, which is providing £5M for the project, last week agreed to supply an extra £1.44M.

But it warned that if Portsmouth failed to resolve its dispute with Mowlem it would consider reclaiming the money.

Mowlem said this week that it expected to conclude negotiations with Portsmouth City Council by next month.

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