Plans to build a £40 million Waterfront hotel have been delayed yet again, in a fresh setback for the city’s £1bn regeneration project.
Work on the luxury accommodation, set to be operated by international hotelier Marriott under its AC brand, will now not realistically start until next year.
That is despite the council setting aside £20m to get the project under way, as well as having planning permission and a building warrant for the first phase of the project signed off.
The delay revolves around the “business case” for the hotel – the rationale for the project existing in the first place – not being completed as expected.
Without a business case signed off by councillors, the council cannot justify beginning the work, and therefore cannot justify splashing the cash.
Initially, the council intended to spend £19.6m on the project between April this year and next March – the 2019/20 financial year – and another £2.7m in the same period in 2020/21.
But a spending review due to be presented to councillors next week now proposes shifting £12.16m for the Site 6 hotel into next year’s budget – in what council officers term a “rephasing” of the project.
The paper states: “The budget has been rephased to reflect the anticipated construction programme.
“The design process is at an advanced stage, aligned to the timescales required to complete the full business case for the hotel.”
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Despite the shift of the sum into next year’s coffers, those with knowledge of the move vehemently deny that it represents a delay.
A source said: “This does not mean it has been delayed as there was never a date on the project in the first place. It’s more complicated than that.”
Liberal Democrat group leader and West End councillor Fraser Macpherson, pictured right, said he will ask questions when the report is discussed on Monday.
The councillor has also called on officers to stick to plain English when admitting to delays in flagship projects.
“I do think there’s a real need for all council committee reports to use plain English at all times,” he said.
“Too often there’s far too much what I would call ‘council speak’ which is not transparent or easily readable.
“I am adamant that council reports must be accessible to the public and not written in council jargon that is frankly unhelpful.”
A spokesman for Robertson Group said the firm is “on track” to begin work on the hotel in January next year.
It is the second time in 2019 that the hotel, set to be operated by international hotelier giant Marriott under its AC brand, has been delayed.
Spending was pushed back in February due to a setback in finalising the hotel’s design – described by council officers at the time as “project timescales being revisited”.
Officers said in February the “revisit” would still mean the project would be completed “within the programme for the whole Central Waterfront project” – which wraps up in 2031.
A warrant to carry out the first phase of the project – a £15.5m operation to lay the building’s foundations and put up its skeleton – was approved just last month. The setback follows delays to numerous other waterfront projects.
The £2m roll-out of a free public wifi network covering the Waterfront area was originally planned to be in place for the opening of V&A Dundee, but has been pushed back until next year.
The highly-anticipated digital playpark scheduled to be built to the east of the V&A has also been delayed, although a design competition for the project is now open.
It also comes after the Apex Hotel abandoned plans to transform Custom House, the listed former headquarters of the Dundee Port Authority, into a five-star hotel, citing an oversaturated market.
A spokesman for Dundee City Council said: “The business model of the proposed development is currently being prepared.
“The council’s capital plan is reviewed regularly and the initial capital allocation was provisional.
“The funding for this project has been rephased to allow for preparation of a business case which will then be considered by councillors.”