As far as the tendering was concerned, one might argue that it’s a bit like dredging up the question of whether England’s third goal in 1966 was over the line. The fact remains, though, that Wembley did not follow best practice. When it invited bids, contractors such as Mowlem pulled out because they could not meet its requirements. But then neither could the Bovis-Multiplex joint venture that Wembley appointed. Project manager Tropus says the contract ought to be retendered, although David James – a second consultant – argues that this is unfeasible as it would delay construction for another year. Now it’s over to the National Audit Office.
One of the difficulties with Wembley is whether it is public or private. The way Wembley plumped for the non-compliant team is not uncommon in the private sector. And although the public purse is donating £140m for land and infrastructure, it’s not paying for the construction. However, the intervention of successive secretaries of state – usually with disastrous consequences – has given the impression that Wembley is very much a public enterprise. After all, this is our national stadium, so whatever the financial arrangements, the highest standards must apply.
Another area of confusion is cost. Almost everyone has a different estimate. Our figure is around £410m – some £83.5m more than the previously quoted sum. However, the numbers are given a conditional endorsement by Cyril Sweett. So, despite its history, the Wembley project is now in good shape. There is new management under Mike Jeffries, a stunning Foster design, and – whatever you think about the way it was chosen – a contractor with a robust track-record. Doubts remain over whether banker West LB will hand over the money after the recent revelations, but let’s hope so. After everything, can we please just get on and build the damn thing?
The men who make things
“… Course, technology’s revolutionising everything, innit? If you listen to what Falconer says about prefabs for nurses, you can see everything’s going to be made in factories. That Egan was right: it’s all going to be like the car industry. Stands to reason, dunnit? Every building in Britain’ll end up looking the same, granted, but what’s the alternative? We just haven’t got the labour to carry on as we are. Besides, youngsters want to work with computers, don’t they? They’ll all have these high-res screens attached to their hats so the architect can send them changes through the internet. Sounds a bit like Star Trek, but that’s progress, innit? By the way, you got the number of a good craftsman? I’ve got this thatched cottage near Newmarket and the roof’s in a terrible two-and-eight. All the locals guys are booked up until September and I’ve only got a month to get it done …”