Dundee’s V&A facing delays and budget crisis

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Photo Cred: V & A. org
Photo Cred: V & A. org
Photo Cred: V & A. org

The construction of Dundee’s V&A Museum has been a popular feature in the art world recently due to its ever increasing budget and ever delayed opening dates. The original estimate for the build put the price at £45m, with that number then increased to £49m. In early January the costs were revealed by project leaders to be closer to an eye-watering £80m, almost double the original price. The museum’s opening date has also been pushed back to June 2018, rather than mid-2017.

Councillors have, however, agreed a fixed-price tender of £76.16m with contractors BAM Construction after several months of negotiations. Project leaders have attempted to placate outspoken members of both public and council with assurances that the museum will be an investment in both the cultural and economic development of the city. Construction on the site is hoped to provide 51 full-time jobs and 361 more jobs indirectly. This number is thought to rise to 628 after the opening of the museum. An economic boost of £11.6m is also expected due to projected numbers of visitors to the museum, thought to be around 270,000 annually.

The Scottish Governments total contributions to the project now reach £25m after pledging an additional £10m. Dundee City Council has promised an further £6.5m to the project, ensuring that these funds will not decrease other council responsibilities. The UK Government’s Coastal Communities Fund has also provided £500,000. V&A Dundee is among 27 projects in coastal communities and towns in Scotland which will benefit from the £9.58m of funding. The Heritage Lottery Fund has also pledged £4.5m, adding to the £9.4m which had already been contributed from the fund.

Dundee City Council leader, and advocate for the build despite its spiralling costs, Ken Guild has said that “…with a unique building, you get a unique challenge”. The building’s design includes a concrete shell which is cast on site, a process which has proven to be more expensive than previously anticipated due to substantial inflation from within the building industry. Mike Galloway, development director for Dundee City Council has described the increased inflation as a surprise to both project leaders and major contractors. Kengo Kuma, the architect responsible for the design has also expressed his surprise at the new price tag, but is quoted as being “very pleased” that Dundee City Council and the Scottish Government has decided to go ahead with building works despite concerns over growing costs. Although a “comprehensive review” is to be conducted by David Martin, council chief executive, Liberal Democrat councillor Fraser Macpherson also called on Audit Scotland to investigate the spiralling costs of the project. As both investigations were intended to focus on the dramatically rising price of construction, Audit Scotland declined to launch enquiries, with the possibility of a reversal of this decision when the council’s own internal review is completed.

With councillors approving the new £80m budget for the project on the 27th of January, work can now go ahead at the site. However, the first major deadline for the revised project is fast approaching and is, surprisingly, for rather cute and fluffy reasons. June marks the beginning of the seal pup season on the Firth of Tay requiring preparatory work in the river to be completed by then.

Should these essential construction works not be completed by then, building works will be delayed by at least 6 months. This will have obvious effects of the opening dates of the museum and inflation costs to the contractor.

V&A Dundee director Philip Long has described the museum as “…the first purpose-built design museum outside of London in the UK”. It is clear that this construction will be the most important piece of the city’s waterfront regeneration, providing a cultural facelift to the city as well as a visual one.

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