National Gallery revamp to go over budget despite being cut back
A long-awaited overhaul of Scotland's flagship art gallery is set to go over budget - despite being dramatically scaled back to try to keep the cost down.
The National Galleries of Scotland has admitted it does not yet how much the revamp of its historic home at The Mound in Edinburgh will cost.
Bosses have revealed they may have to go back to the Scottish Government to ask for more financial help on the project, which has an official price tag of £16.8 million.
And they admitted they will have to seek fresh planning permission after abandoning plans to extend the complex into Princes Street Gardens - more than a year after the previous scehem was backed by councillors.
The booming construction market in Edinburgh city centre, where work is already underway on a number of major developments, and the impact of Brexit have been blamed for the expected hike in the cost of the project.
A final budget and funddraising targets for the project will not be set until the tendering process for the construction work is complete.
Work is not now expected to get underway until the end of next year at the earliest - almost two years later than envisaged.
However Sir John Leighton, director-general of the galleries, insisted he was hopeful that the project, which was first announced in 2014, will be finished by 2020.
The gallery overhaul is predicted to double the amount of space for Scottish art treasures on The Mound following years of complaints that they were hidden away in a basement area.
It emerged in May of this year that extending the existing 19th century building by around five metres above railway lines serving Waverley Station had been ruled out due to the concerns over the cost and complexity of the work.
Sir John said today: “We are hoping to go back in for planning permission later this year.
“Once we have the necessary approvals we will go out to tender. We will then be able to say with a degree of precision what the schedule of work and price will be.
“I’m not saying anything about the schedule or the price until then. I'm not going to give an indicative figure. It will be more than the figure we gave before. How much more than that I can't say at the moment.
"But we will be trying to keep as close to £16.8 million as we possibly can.
"The HLF have reconfirmed their support for the project. We will not be going back to them. The Scottish Government remain extremely supportive.
“We’re still working to an end date in 2020. We’re hoping to make some date back as the new scheme, in construction terms, will be simpler. A lot depends on how long the planning process takes. We are hoping it will be relatively simple, but who knows?
“A lot will also depend on where the market is with the tenders for the simplified scheme we are putting out and how long they take to negotiate. It’s very difficult to put a precise time on that.
"The construction market was much more stable when we went out to tender the last time. It has really taken off since then.
"A whole lot of uncertainties have entered into the frame since we started this, not least Brexit, and its impact on the price of raw materials and construction costs.
“By this time next year I would hope we would have contractors on site and spades in the ground.”