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Dispute breaks out over Mareel delay

Mareel now delayed until at least July. Pic. Shetland Arts

A DISPUTE has broken out over delays to Shetland’s £12.1 million cinema and music venue Mareel.

The row comes after Shetland Arts revealed on Monday that the much heralded cultural hub on Lerwick’s North Ness would not be ready until July at the earliest, despite an announcement in December that it would open on 24 May.

Local building contractor DITT blame the arts agency for making last minute changes to the design, while Shetland Arts say the company has repeatedly failed to live up to its own deadlines.

The agency said the constantly changing picture gave it “great concern”, but added that it would be “unprofessional to play out contractual issues in the public arena”.

The building is more than one year behind schedule and several major events, including Shetland’s first jazz festival, will be affected by the latest hold-up.

In a statement, Shetland Arts said they had been informed of the latest completion date on Tuesday last week during a site progress meeting with DITT, despite being assured in writing last year that the keys would be ready to hand over in April.

“There are many rumours circulating regarding reasons for construction delays, including recent claims by DITT Construction Ltd on specific aspects of the construction,” the statement said.

“Such issues should be dealt with either pre or post completion of the contract through due process between Shetland Arts, our professional advisers, and our contractor.

“So although Shetland Arts would like at times to contest what is being said and offer counter factual information, we believe that such action would be unhelpful, given our desire to see a building completed to the standard for which DITT Construction Ltd are known, in as quick a time as possible.”

In response, DITT issued their own statement, saying the company was “disappointed in the tone and content of the statement issued today by Shetland Arts”, and that they had no option but to respond publicly.

The company said: “Whilst a date was given to Shetland Arts regarding a completion date, the arts trust have conveniently chosen to ignore the fact that the date was subject to no further instructions or additional works being instructed by their design team.

“Disappointingly for the progress of the project, since 14 November a number of significant changes have been instructed. Design changes at this stage of a project inevitably impact on the completion date.

“We are entirely confident that we are fulfilling our obligations under the terms of the contract.”

Shetland Arts have said that they can not make a judgment whether Mareel will actually be completed on 25 May because they do not yet have a detailed and fully completed programme of works from DITT.

“The period of delay to date and changing picture gives Shetland Arts great concern,” the agency said, adding that they had previously received “multiple assurances of completion dates followed by notification of delays”.

“Clearly this makes it very difficult for Shetland Arts to programme activity in the building with confidence or for promoters wishing to make bookings to have faith in the dates we offer.

“In order to reduce further distress to those who wish to use the building and for Shetland Arts to mitigate loss wherever possible, we will now only confirm bookings for events after practical completion is certified, which will likely result in the first events taking place in Mareel six to eight weeks after the keys have been handed over.”

Shetland Arts chairman Jim Johnston added that they were “very frustrated” by the further delays.

He added that the board “supports the efforts of our director, staff and the Mareel design team to hold DITT Construction Ltd to their obligations under the construction contract and the subsequent delivery of Mareel”.

By coincidence Shetland MSP Tavish Scott was given a tour of the building on Monday afternoon as the news of the latest delays was emerging.

He said: “We all want to see the building finished as quickly as possible. It looks to me like it’s been built to a very high standard and I have no doubt it will be very impressive when it’s completed.

“I suspect there is a huge level of frustration being felt by everyone involved in the project in terms of wanting to see it done.” 

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