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Greenwich: Will the Cutty Sark be ready for the Olympics?

PUBLISHED: 12:20 02 September 2010

Cutty Sark fire damage

Cutty Sark fire damage

Archant

A COUNCILLOR has called for a completion date to be set for the re-opening of the Cutty Sark six months after the taxpayer bailed out the doom-ridden restoration project.

The Cutty Sark in May 2007

Nigel Fletcher, Conservative spokesperson for the Olympics and Environment on Greenwich council, said a more specific timescale needs to be set to give people confidence that the project is being managed properly following a series of mishaps.

He said: “There should be a timescale in place. To say towards the end of next year is not an exact timescale. An exact date would be sensible and go towards re-assuring people that everything is on track.”

In February this year, taxpayers stepped in to meet the £3 million shortfall to restore the ship in time for the 2012 London Olympic Games.

The grant was made up of contributions by the government, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Greenwich council, the Greater London Authority (GLA) and thousands of private donors.

The Cutty Sark as it stands today.

As reported in the Times last October, the Cutty Sark Trust was hit by a £3 million shortfall and a further delay, this time of nine months.

Previous completion dates include March this year, summer this year, the end of this year, spring 2011 but now the completion date has been set to the end of next year.

Chief Executive of the Cutty Sark Charity Trust, Richard Doughty told the Times that there is still a huge amount of building work to do on the function space, underneath the tea clipper which caught fire in 2007.

In February, Mr Doughty blamed the set back on the level of corrosion on the frames below the timbers in the stern and bow, claiming it was worse than workers predicted. This meant more surveys had to be done, greater strengthening and the addition of up to 30 sister frames before the wooden blanks could go in.

Mr Fletcher said: “The Conservatives said at the time that it was the right thing to do to put the money in as it was inconceivable that it could fail. It was the right thing to step in but there were concerns about the management issues at the Trust and previously we had been told that the money given was all they needed.”

The latest plans include steel legs ripping through the hull of the 141-year-old ship, to raise her eleven feet above the ground, to make room for the corporate venue – a plan which led the project’s chief engineer to resign last December claiming it would place too much stress on the ship.

When asked for a more detailed time scale of progress, Mr Doughty said: “We don’t have a date. The conservation work will be complete by the last quarter of next year. There is a huge amount of building work to do.

“We will be completed by the end of 2011. Everything is going according to plan.”

The latest assurances from Mr Doughty come after reports that the Trust spent £1 million on teak which they are unable to use. Mr Doughty denied it cost anything in the region of the reported £1 million but when pressed he revealed the figure to be £700,000.

He said: “The teak was bought in 2006. We did buy a quantity of teak that was Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) teak to satisfy the criteria for the Heritage Lottery Fund. We have to buy sustainable teak for the conservation of the ship. We bought a quantity of teak, nothing like £1 million which has been bandied around.

“It had a look that would allow us to give an authentic look to the ship. We had the fire and in the fire we lost the decks so we had to reappraise. We haven’t made a decision whether the quantity of timber we have is sufficient to complete the deck.

“Now we don’t have a deck. The criteria has changed – we have to look at a degree of waterproofness.

“We haven’t decided what we are going to do. We are looking at options that are open to us.”

It has now been decided that the strengthening overplatting metal frames will be painted grey in order for visitors to differentiate from the original.

Mr Doughty said there are not any plans on to create artist impressions of what the new venue will look like as they are too costly.

He added: “The images we released two years ago still give a feel of what it will look like. There isn’t a huge difference from that impression two years ago.”

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