Redesigns and problems with concrete blamed for delays and added costs on east London leisure centre.
A row has broken out over the Hodder Associates-designed Clissold Leisure Centre in Hackney, east London, which is £10m overbudget and a year behind schedule.

A report by the district auditor slammed the management team and criticised the overspend. The project cost has risen from £15m to almost £25m.

The project has run into problems on site and it is understood that contractor Gleeson is considering legal action over claims.

Hodder Associates principal partner Stephen Hodder admitted that there were difficulties but insisted that the auditor’s figures were incorrect. He said: “The contract figure and the overspend figure put out by the district auditor do not add up.” However, he declined to put a figure on the scheme’s overspend. He added: “With a potential claim from Gleeson, we are not in a position to go into the precise costs involved.”

Hodder said: “The project was tendered along with a raft of millennium projects. At the time, contractors were very busy and tenders exceeded predictions.”

He added: “The problems after work began lay largely with the fairfaced concrete. There was a redesign of the concrete that was poured while on site, and we were also pouring concrete at the wrong time of year.”

However, a project source said the main reason for the delay and overspend was problems installing the centre’s complex roof.

The source said: “The steelwork for the roof involved two or three costly redesigns while it was on site. The steelwork was a challenge because it is quite unique. Achieving the correct finish on the concrete was difficult. The concrete had to be given additional coats, and that added to the delays.”

Gleeson refused to comment on the project overspend but a spokesperson said it had been granted more time to finish the project. “The completion date has been extended to June 2000,” the spokesperson said.

The district auditor criticised Hackney council for poor management. Its report said: “Sufficient corporate emphasis was not placed on ensuring that the project was being properly managed.”

The council has attacked the district auditor for releasing the report. A spokesperson said:

“The district auditor has broken the rules in releasing these figures. Essentially, this is a contractual matter.” He added: “The council is investigating reasons for the overspend. It should be remembered that the Clissold Leisure Centre is an ambitious project of a complex design.” The auditor’s report said: “The Clissold Leisure Centre scheme is projected to overspend by £10.6m.”