The long-awaited redevelopment of Aberdeen’s Union Terrace Gardens is again in doubt after it emerged council chiefs are still searching for a firm to undertake the work.
It is understood the final cost of the flagship project, which will transform the sunken city centre park, is also not yet known.
Last night, a spokesman for the authority insisted the delay was due to efforts to ensure “best value” for the city.
But opposition leaders demanded answers about the administration’s “continual failure” to deliver key projects, such as UTG and Aberdeen Art Gallery, on time.
In a report to the city’s growth committee, councillors are told the tender period for bids has been extended “to allow the bidders to finalise their responses” – meaning the final cost and preferred contractor are not known.
It adds that officers “are continuing to assess the outcome of the procurement process” and that a report will be submitted to a future meeting.
The project – initially priced at £22million – was initially planned to be completed by next July, but that was put back summer 2020.
However, without a spade yet in the ground, it is feared it may be impossible for the project to be completed within the estimated 18-24 month timeframe, even if it started tomorrow.
LDA design, the firm behind London’s Olympic Park, unveiled their designs for the park – which include water features, a golden “halo” suspended above the central grass area, shops and cafes in the arches and community gardens along the rail tracks – in 2016 to widespread approval.
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They were backed in principle March 2017, and were granted final approval by the planning committee in March this year.
Last night opposition SNP group leader Stephen Flynn said:“This is getting beyond a joke – it’s almost two years since councillors agreed to proceed and we still don’t even know what the actual costs of the proposed redevelopment will be.
“This continual failure to deliver key council projects on time is clearly a problem that this administration never intends to resolve and, most importantly, it is one which does nothing to improve the reputation of the city.
“Our main concern now lies in whether these multiple delays will have increased costs and, if so, whether the project therefore remains viable given the council’s mass cost-cutting.”
But the administration’s business manager, Councillor Ryan Houghton, said: “The Union Terrace Gardens project remains a priority for this administration and will be delivered.
“As we have said on numerous occasions, by the end of this administration’s term in office, citizens will benefit from a new AECC, an upgraded art gallery, an upgraded Music Hall, the AWPR and of course UTG.”
Last night a council spokesman said the authority was hoping to make an announcement on the preferred contract before the end of the year.
He said: “In awarding the construction contract it is vital that the council continues to work diligently to secure best value for the city.
“The council hopes to announce the successful bidder before the end of the year and looks forward to progressing a project that will act as a catalyst for further transformation across the City Region.”