Council strikes £14.2m deal with Banner Holdings to finish exterior, as design changes to cut costs

Work will restart on Rafael Viñoly’s troubled Colchester visual arts centre next week after the council reached an agreement with contractor Banner Holdings to complete the scheme’s exterior under a fixed-price contract.

A key element of the original facade design will be scrapped to save money. The council says “several million” more than the £14.2m agreed for the exterior will be needed to finish the interior.

Work on the building came to a virtual standstill at the end of last year when glazing contractor Eiffel and cladding specialist Richardson Roofing left the job because of technical and funding problems. Richardson’s contract allowed it to retire from the job after completing £2.1m of work.

Under the new deal, Banner will complete the building’s exterior for a fixed price of £14.2m, which was the original budget for the whole building.

A section of the glass facade that was to have opened to provide access for large artworks, will be scrapped to save money. This section would have been technically problematic as it was 10m wide, 3.5m high and moved like a giant garage door. Instead, a sliding door will be installed.

Richardson Roofing will return to site next week, but Eiffel will not be returning to the job. Banner said it was tendering the glazing package for the side and roof of the building, and a second package for the front facade, including the opening section. Banner has until next May to finish the exterior.

Work remaining on the interior includes completing the M&E package, the auditorium, toilet fit-out and flooring.

The council is in talks with the original funders of the project, which include the East of England Development Agency and the Arts Council, to pay for the completion. Colchester council said it was “very optimistic” it would get the money.

The council added that the interior work could go to another contractor. A council spokesperson said: “If Banner can persuade us it can do the interior fit-out we will look at that, but we will be also be looking to other contractors and are keeping our options open at the moment.”