The former head of Beamish and Crawford has called for the controversial Cork event centre project to be scrapped and retendered,
Business consultant Alf Smiddy, who was chairman and managing director of Beamish and Crawford plc between 1998 and 2008, said public confidence in the process has been shattered by the project’s spiralling costs which have risen from €53m to €65m, and the lack of a clear timeline for the delivery of the 6,000-seat venue earmarked for the former brewery site.
“I think this controversy is going to drag on and drag on, and that the time has come to bite the bullet and start with a clean slate,” Mr Smiddy said.
“BAM is a great international company but I do think the whole event centre project has spiralled out of control.
“And if you don’t have public confidence around a big project like this, questions will continue to be asked.”
The Irish Examiner revealed on Wednesday how developers BAM, who won a public tender more than two years ago for €20m in state aid for the venue, have requested a further €18m in public funding.
It won the tender with designs for a 10,600sqm venue. But Bam said when event centre operators Live Nation came on board afterwards, a larger 13,500sq m venue was required to ensure it was commercially viable.
BAM told councillors in February that an extra €12m in state aid was required, and that consultants had told them a €6m contingency was also required pending further detailed design.
But Lord Mayor Cllr Des Cahill and FF Cllr Terry Shannon both said they believed BAM would cover the contingency costs.
However, it has emerged that BAM has lodged a formal request for an extra €18m in public funding.
The request has been assessed by a team in Cork City Council which oversaw the original tender, and has been forwarded to the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, which is providing the funding.
Mr Smiddy said the time has now come for the entire project to be retendered.
“I think public confidence in this project is now very low and there are huge credibility issues,” he said.
“There were many potential developers who didn’t bid for the initial public funding over two years ago because of the criteria at the time, and because of the downturn.
“But many are back up and running again and they should be given an opportunity to tender for this project.
“And there are other sites in the city which could be considered at this stage.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DEPR) said it is a matter for the Department of Arts to first assess the funding request and then seek approval from DEPR.
“Any proposal from the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs on the project will fall to be considered as part of the government’s mid-term capital review.”
Local Government Minister Simon Coveney has said he believes the Government will look favourably on the extra funding request, pending a value for money appraisal.
It is hoped that a decision could be made within a matter of weeks.