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Wednesday 28 June 2017

Another €2.9m wasted on shelved cultural projects

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

THE STATE spent almost €2.5m planning a massive revamp of the National Concert Hall (NCH) which is no longer going ahead.

Another €400,000 went to waste on paying consultants to see if the Abbey Theatre should be moved to a new site, but there has been no movement on the project since it was first announced in 2003.

The massive spend on lawyers, consultants, architects and planners came during the boom when redevelopments costing up to €350m were planned for both cultural institutions.

The Irish Independent has learned that no decision has been made on moving the Abbey Theatre to a new home, while the National Concert Hall project has been permanently shelved.

The Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport confirmed last night that the multi-million-euro redevelopment would not go ahead, but insisted the money spent would not be wasted.

"It was decided in late 2010 not to proceed with the project as originally envisaged given the current economic situation," a spokesman said.

"Since 2007 some €2.4m has been spent by the National Development Finance Agency, the Office of Public Works and the NCH on technical, legal and financial advice for the project. A significant amount of that advice was site specific and remains relevant to the concert hall and any future development at the site."

First mooted in 2006, the State had planned spending €100m redeveloping the NCH under a public/private partnership (PPP) with the construction of three separate but inter-linked auditoria, to hold 2,050 seats, due to begin this year.

Events

The Earlsfort Terrace venue hosts more than 500 music events every year to more than 300,000 people, and is the home of the RTE National Symphony Orchestra.

The revamped venue was to open in 2013.

In a separate development, it has also emerged that planning the move of the Abbey Theatre to a new site has cost the taxpayer some €401,000, but no progress has been made.

In 2003 the government announced it was considering moving the national theatre, and the decision to go ahead was taken in 2006. A team was put in place to drive the project, which was expected to cost up to €250m.

In 2007, it was decided to move the national theatre to a new site in the Docklands, but in October 2009 the Green Party/Fianna Fail coalition decided that it would undertake a detailed assessment of the GPO to see if it was suitable to host a national theatre.

The feasibility study is not yet complete, and some €401,000 has been spent.

"Some €401,000 has been spent . . . on design, engineering, architectural, financial and legal fees in relation to the Abbey Theatre PPP," the department said.

"Once the feasibility study is completed it will be considered by the minister and the Government."

Irish Independent

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