Fresh concerns have been raised about Cork’s stalled events centre following confirmation that legal advice, linked to a request for an extra €18m in state aid, has been sought.
It is the latest snag in the long-running saga over the 6,000-seat venue which was sanctioned for an initial €20m in state funding support in December 2014.
Former taoiseach Enda Kenny turned the sod 19 months ago on the project, earmarked for the former Beamish and Crawford site.
While site clearance and archaeological work has taken place, construction work has yet to begin.
Independent Cllr Mick Finn, who raised the issue this week said: “Failure to progress the issue is causing reputational damage to Cork, including the various parties involved.”
Following months of controversy, it emerged earlier this year that the project costs have soared.
Developers BAM and its partners, Live Nation, told city councillors in February the costs had risen from €53m to €65m following a “protracted internal redesign process” which saw the venue’s footprint increase from around 10,000 sq/m to 13,500 sq/m.
They said the redesign was essential to ensure the venue would be commercially viable. They said it has now been designed to be one of the most flexible and adaptable venues of its kind in the world, capable of hosting large rock concerts and conferences, as well as opera, intimate gigs and sporting events. But they said it now needs an extra €18m in state funding — €12m plus a €6m contingency fund.
Cllr Finn asked city officials for a progress report at this week’s meeting of city council.
The city’s head of planning and economic development, Pat Ledwidge, revealed that the council, which is managing the complex process, submitted the formal request for extra state funding for the events centre on March 28, and provided further information on June 13 to support the application.
“The Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht affairs requested further clarification on July 3. One of the items necessitated legal advice which is in the course of being obtained,” he said.
“Once this advice is obtained, the information sought will be forwarded to the department. It is anticipated that this will happen within the next two weeks.”
It is understood the legal advice relates to complex procurement and tender procedures. The department will then have to consider the request before submitting it to the Department of Public Expenditure for a value-for-money audit.
Mr Finn said it is concerning there are further legal issues that need to be sorted, external to the council.
“We really need to get a decision on whether or not this will happen for Cork and the region,” he said.
City Hall has repeatedly defended its handling of the process, saying “public stewardship” of the project has to be robust at all times given the scale of state investment.
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