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Mareel builders take Shetland Arts to court

Mareel: the controversy continues as builders DITT take Shetland Arts to court. Pic. Shetland Arts/Phatsheep Photography

THE SHETLAND Arts Development Agency is being sued in the Court of Session by the building firm which has just completed the £12 million Mareel music and cinema venue more than two years behind schedule.

DITT Construction, of Holmsgarth Road, Lerwick, lodged a case with the court on Friday 31 August.

DITT director Peter Tait would only confirm that a case had been lodged, but it is understood the firm is seeking a sum of around £200,000 in an argument over the terms of the contract.

The relationship between contractor and client has worn thin over the course of the job, which began in May 2009 and was originally expected to take just 18 months to complete.

The complex building erected on a small footprint in central Lerwick involved the hiring of around 35 sub contractors, many of them specialists in their field.

Building commenced in May 2009 following a hard fight obtaining the funds to build the state of the art centre, with main investor Shetland Islands Council only agreeing to spend £5.2 million on the casting vote of then convener Sandy Cluness.

One councillor threatened to “put a bomb” under the project and another reported the investment to Audit Scotland and the public services ombudsman.

After several delays caused by inclement weather and sub contractors going out of business due to the wider economic climate, Shetland Arts announced last December that Mareel would finally open on 24 May 2012.

When that date was put back to July the two sides fell out in public with DITT accusing its client of making last minute changes to the design, while Shetland Arts said the builders had repeatedly failed to meet deadlines.

The arts agency now has a few days to decide whether to defend itself against the legal action, however it is suspected they might lodge a counter claim against the builders. No one from the organisation would comment on Tuesday.

Mareel, the most expensive public building in Shetland, was eventually opened last month after several false starts caused by the failure to present a completion certificate to the local planning department.

Eventually a temporary certificate was accepted by planners on Friday 24 August and the first event featuring the National Youth Jazz Orchestra of Scotland was staged the following evening.

Currently the venue is hosting Shetland Arts’ film and book festivals Screenplay and Wordplay with the cinema open for general screenings of popular films on 10 September.

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