Feilden Clegg Bradley and Wilkinson Eyre are the last two architects competing to design a landmark leisure centre in West Suusex that had its budget slashed by £7m at the last minute

Six design teams were shortlisted in April for the Worthing project. As well as the two finalists, they were Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, Ian Simpson Architects, Pringle Richards Sharratt and Thomas Heatherwick.

However, the budget for the scheme was cut from £22m to £15m in the days before the six architects had to submit their final designs last month.

Each firm spent several months putting together submissions for the project, but it is understood that they were told its budget had been cut little more than 24 hours before the designs were intended to be submitted to the jury.

One architect on a shortlisted team said: “It was a bit of a farce. We’d spent weeks working up costed designs, only to be told the night before that they were £7m short of their target, and asked whether we could explore cheaper options.”

The source added that his firm had spent the equivalent of £10,000 working up designs for the last stage of the competition.

We’d spent weeks working up costed designs only to be told they were £7m short

Source at shortlisted firm

Worthing council admitted that the budget for the centre had been slashed from £22m to £15m, as it could not sell seafront land in the current market to help fund the project. In a subsequent council meeting, extra funds were found to give the project a £17m budget.

Wilkinson Eyre and Feilden Clegg Bradley are set to be interviewed this week. The winner will be announced by the end of the month.

A spokesperson from the RIBA competitions office, which administered the contest, was unable to confirm exactly when the architects had been told that the budget was cut. She said: “In this economic climate, budgets change all the time and architects are aware of that and are usually able to work around it.”

None of the shortlisted firms were available to comment.