THE opening of Liverpool’s flagship new museum has been put back by up to six months.
Museum bosses had hoped to welcome their first guests in spring next year but are now not likely to open their doors until the summer.
The Daily Post can also reveal the Museum of Liverpool’s X-wing building has been plunged into a legal no-man’s land after the contract between National Museums Liverpool (NML) and its main contractor expired and was never renewed.
NML, which commissioned the £72m waterfront building, allowed its contract with builder Peel Galliford Try (PGT) to lapse in February.
It means NML, which is headed by director Dr David Fleming, has not technically taken ownership of the building and PGT is still responsible for it.
Final “snagging” works at the site are still to be completed and are now threatening to delay the project further. And because no agreement exists between NML and PGT, the taxpayer-funded museums body is potentially exposed to a huge bill. PGT is effectively babysitting the site but has not agreed what fees it will be paid to do so.
When pressed about the contract issue NML could not confirm it had taken “vacant possession” of the Museum of Liverpool building or if it was now its legal owner.
It is understood that the building is still technically in the hands of the construction company that built it and is under what is known in the construction industry as a “contract at large”.
But in February – around about the time the last contract between NML and PGT expired – NML chairman Professor Phil Redmond hosted a gala fundraising dinner in the museum’s People’s Gallery, ostensibly to mark the handover of the building from PGT to NML.
Referring to the opening being put back an NML spokesman last night said it has been reluctant to give an exact date because it wanted to “get things right”.
He added: “This is the largest new museum built in the UK for more than a century.
“We’ve been reluctant to give an exact opening date as this is a massive scheme and we want to get things right.
“We are making really good progress on site and are looking forward to opening next summer.”
Prof Redmond’s dinner was also held to mark the end of construction on the museum but NML has now also admitted the site is still an “operational building site”.
The Daily Post understands one of the reasons the contract was not renewed was because NML was not happy with how certain parts of the building had been finished off.
One of the most significant sticking points was the amphitheatre-style steps that were installed at either end of the building, which apparently did not “mesh” together satisfactorily.
After seeing them in situ, NML directors asked for them to be ripped out and re-laid.
The Daily Post understands one of the sets of steps has been taken out, but neither has yet been replaced.
It remains unclear if NML and PGT have come to an agreement about their final design at all.
Last month the Daily Post revealed how NML had been dragged through a £500,000 legal dispute by its architects, AEW, over unpaid fees.
It also emerged that the epoxy resin flooring in the museum needed attention after the surface bubbled up.
Nevertheless, NML said it hopes to continue fitting out the museum and preparing to let in visitors. Last month an overhead railway carriage moved into the building and became the first object to arrive. More than 10,000 local people were consulted on the content of the exhibits on show in the three-storey building.
And NML expect the museum to attract more than 750,000 visitors a year, and lead to more than 70 permanent jobs. Responding to the contractual issue with PGT, the NML spokesman added: “We are happy with progress being made on site. Fit-out is under way and we were thrilled when the overhead railway carriage became the first object moved into the new museum last month. This marked a significant development in the creation of what will be a world class museum.
“As we’ve stated before the Museum of Liverpool is still an operational building site. Works inside and out are continuing with a variety of contractors working on this £72m scheme as you would expect with one year to go before opening.
“The project is continuing apace and we can’t wait to open next summer.”
A spokesman for PGT was unavailable for comment.
When Dicky Felton joined NML as press officer, he may have thought he was going to be employed to give packets of swizzels to kids at the new wacky warehouse-on-sea.
I bet you he didnt anticipate that he would spend all his time pulling Fuzzy Felt Fleming out of the "shit" he has created for himself.
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