Council is expected to hand over to operator Thermae Bath Spa this month after missing deadline at end of April

The beleaguered Bath Spa project looks set to open in the next few weeks, though no date has been set.

The £45m spa building, which £33m over budget and five years late, was due to be handed over to spa operator Thermae Bath Spa at the end of last month but missed the deadline.

The building is largely complete inside but, despite previous council assurances, the outside of the building is unfinished.

Claire Dell, Thermae Bath Spa guest services manager, said the company could be waiting for up to two weeks.

She said: "We are currently waiting for completion and handover. We have been told this could be one week, 10 days or two weeks. After that we will need a few weeks for fixtures fitting and staff training before it will be open to the public.

"There is no handover date yet but it will probably be next week at least."

The delay comes as the local government minister, Phil Woolas, visited the troubled site thisweek on a fact-finding mission to "discover what lessons could be learned".

Local councillors from Bath and North East Somerset Council refused to meet the minister because local elections will be held in neighbouring Bristol on Thursday and it would therefore breach the code of conducts for elections.

Critics say council chiefs are understood to be wary of a repeat of the verbal assault they received from the former construction minister, Nigel Griffiths, when he visited the spa in February. He caused a political row when he branded the local authority the "most incompetent council in Britain" for allowing the project to spiral out of control.

Meanwhile, the council is gearing up for a legal battle with contractor Mowlem, which has now been taken over by Carillion, and other consultants on the project, including the architect, Grimshaws.

Malcolm Hanney, executive member for resources at the council, said it was reviewing what legal claims it will make.

He said: "We have taken on specialist solicitors and are considering the issues. We have explored and continue to explore what the claims are and what may be made against us. We are currently developing a strategy."

How long to run a bath?

  • 1997 Millennium Commission announced Bath Spa is one of 70 projects eligible for grants
  • 1998 Grimshaws appointed architect
  • 2000 Mowlem appointed main contractor
  • February 2001 Thermae Bath Spa becomes council partner
  • 2002 Original completion date
  • Summer 2003 Row erupts between Grimshaws and Mowlem over flaking paint in the pools
  • August 2003 Revised date for opening
  • April 2005 Mowlem sacked from project. Capita Symonds installed as project manager
  • Spring 2006 is revised date for Spa opening – yet to be realised