Sources close to the scheme said the theatre would not be in a position to open until January 2000 – the third time the controversial project has missed its finishing deadline.
It is understood that staff at the Royal Court were informed of the setback last month, after earlier delays meant the project missed two previous deadlines of June 1998 and May 1999.
Difficulties on the project have been heightened by cramped working conditions and the necessity to install lots of temporary supports to the building’s existing structure before new work could take place.
Project client the English Stage Company had to negotiate more than 80 party wall agreements with the building’s neighbours before construction work could commence.
The local environmental health department also restricted work on the project to 8am-6pm on Monday to Friday and 8am-1pm on Saturdays.
The project team, including the architect and client, were in meetings on Wednesday morning to discuss the situation. A source close to the project said: “These things are a recent event and it’s hard to know what the implications are. Schal has had a difficult job to do.”
The source said the project was undergoing a “shakedown” as the project team and client discussed the latest revised completion schedule.
The controversial scheme is already £4.7m over its original budget, and has received extra Arts Council lottery funding of £3.4m in addition to its original grant of £15.8m; a total of almost £19m. On top of this, £828 750 that the Arts Council originally awarded to the development of the Young Persons’ Theatre as part of the project has been reallocated to the main theatre redevelopment.
The project was one of a number of lottery-funded arts projects criticised by the National Audit Office for running late and over budget. The report said the increase in costs was caused by “serious delays” to the project that were partly caused by “poor programming by the construction management contractor”.
The Arts Council, which was also criticised in the NAO report for failing to adequately monitor a number of lottery-funded projects, including the Royal Court scheme, refused to comment.
An Arts Council spokesman was unable to say whether the Royal Court had asked for additional lottery funding to cover the delay. “We are in touch with all our projects and monitor them closely,” he said. “We haven’t given them any more money yet.”
The English Stage Company refused to comment.