THE £10 million project to transform Shrewsbury’s Music Hall into a museum and art gallery has been hit by further delays, council bosses have admitted.
The scheme is now not expected to be finished until ‘late summer 2013’, a further extension to the already long-delayed scheme that had originally been earmarked to be finished by the end of 2011 but has repeatedly been pushed back.
While Shropshire Council says that the scheme remains within its £10.5 million budget, Councillor Jon Tandy has warned the project was a ‘white elephant’ that may have similar hidden costs to the highly-controversial Quantum Leap statue that ended up costing £1 million.
And a local construction expert has also questioned whether the scheme could still be on budget.
A spokesman for Shropshire Council said: “The delay is due to the complexities of Vaughan’s Mansion and the solutions for restoring/conserving the structure.”
Councillor Mike Owen, cabinet member with responsibilities for tourism and culture, said: “A project of this type is highly complex. The nature of the existing buildings means that there are a very high number of unknown factors involved.
“In particular, far more work has been required to the historic Vaughan’s Mansion than was originally anticipated, in order to stabilise the structure and preserve the building.
“The extent of the work required at Vaughan’s Mansion was only known when the layers of the building were peeled back. It is a complex structure with many modifications over its 700 year history, and is of great significance in terms of its age, location and function.
“The new Shrewsbury Museum is scheduled to open in late summer 2013. The project remains within the original budget of £10.5 million.”
Councillor Tandy said: “This is just another white elephant. I believe the costs are spiralling, just like Quantum Leap.”
And local landlord Dennis Naylor, who used to be a project manager for Wrekin Construction, said he thought the two-year delay to the project would cost further money.
“It begs the question of if it is on budget, why were people told it is going to be finished early? If it is not open until the end of next year, the current delay is likely to be longer than the original programme. They are saying we have got as much work to do as we did when we started two years ago.”