WORK on a controversial €2.3m Sky Garden will begin next month – despite the lowest tender for its installation in an Irish city being €1m more than expected.
Installation of the Sky Garden project, which won a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show, will begin in Cork during July – with the facility set to be open to the public next autumn.
The project has been the focus of a bitter wrangle between TV gardener Diarmuid Gavin, Cork City Council and Failte Ireland.
Diarmuid, who designed the garden, was so infuriated by his dealings with the council he severed all links with the project.
He said that working with the council was akin to "working with Father Ted – like Craggy Island". Cork had hoped the garden would be the centrepiece of its The Gathering celebrations this year but will not now be installed until next October/November.
The garden is costing the cash-strapped council an average of €6,000 a month in storage costs.
Cork City Council admitted that it has spent €136,000 to store the garden infrastructure and maintain its 2,000-plus plants in a special nursery.
The Sky Garden has now been in storage in Cork since June 2011.
In a further blow to the project, it emerged last month that the lowest tender bid for its installation was €1m more than anticipated.
City manager Tim Lucey admitted that the bids were "substantially above what was expected".
The entire project, which already lost its key feature of a hanging 'pod' suspended from a 30m crane because of health and safety issues, had to be further revised.
The council said that the essential ingredients of the garden will be retained but the overall project will have to be reduced in both complexity and cost.