The Bath Spa story took another twist this week after Mowlem claimed that Bath and North-East Somerset council (Banes) was trying to prevent it from talking to the media.
The claim emerged after Mowlem invited the press to view the project and then later withdrew the offer. The contractor later issued a statement claiming that the council had invoked a clause in their contract that stopped it from talking to the press.
The contractor said: “Mowlem would like to clarify the reason we have felt obliged to cancel the proposed media visit to the Bath Spa site on Friday 28 January and why we will not be making any further press comment about the project for the time being.
“Despite seeking and securing Mowlem’s agreement to the visit this Friday, the council has subsequently sought to prevent us from making any press or public comment about the works. The council alleges it has this power under the contract.”
Mowlem said the matter was with its lawyers.
A spokesperson for Banes denied that the council was trying to stop Mowlem talking to the media. She said that Banes had merely “reminded Mowlem of its contractual agreement” regarding talking to the press.
She said: “Banes is not trying to stop anyone speaking to the media; we are trying to gain access to the building for the press so the public can judge the condition of the building for themselves.”
This development came as Building’s website revealed that the council had issued a tender last Wednesday for a fresh project manager for the scheme, which is five years late and likely cost more than £40m.
Banes hopes that the contract administrator or project manager it appoints will bring order to the project.
Progress on the scheme reached its nadir in November when Grimshaw, the architect and contract administrator, and Mowlem refused to meet each other.
The reshuffle means that Gardiner & Theobald Management Services, the current project manager, has been taken off the project. Its job needs to be retendered to reflect the wider remit. It also means that Grimshaw has a reduced role.
A spokesperson for Banes said Grimshaw remained the architect and denied that there had been any protest from the firm, despite the apparent reduction in its role. Banes added that GTMS had agreed on the strategy, and would be free to apply for the new job.