QUESTIONS were today being asked about the growing costs of a major refurbishment of one of Leeds’s biggest and most popular tourist attractions.
Tropical World in Roundhay, which is home to a wide-variety of animals including meerkats, butterflies, birds, fish and crocodiles, is undergoing a revamp thanks to a partnership between Leeds City Council and ongoing patrons the Ziff family, who have also donated a large sum to the project.
A new report seen by the YEP confirms that senior council officers have just approved £95,000 of “additional spend” for a new toilet block because the tenders that were submitted were all more than the budgeted amount.
It takes the total cost of the scheme so far to £815,000, way above the £720,000 originally budgeted for.
Conservative councillor Dan Cohen, the council’s shadow spokesman for leisure and culture, said: “Whilst I am pleased that Tropical World is being improved, we have to ensure that it is not given a blank cheque.
“It would not be fair on the Ziffs if the work that is being carried out thanks to their generous donation, and which is a boost for the whole city, was overshadowed by spending in other areas that is allowed to spiral out of control.”
Councillor Colin Campbell, the opposition Lib Dem group’s leisure spokesman, added: “It seems amazing that the council so underestimated the costs of the work involved, especially as major efforts are being made elsewhere to reduce costs.
“I will be seeking assurances that this is a one-off.”
A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “Tropical World remains one of our city’s most popular visitor attractions and we are currently moving forward with a refurbishment programme.
“This work will continue to enhance the facilities for the benefit of Leeds residents and visitors in the future.
“As work has progressed additional costs have been identified, but we are working hard to keep spending as low as possible and we remain confident that the work outlined will deliver value for money at this much-loved attraction.”
The work at Tropical World has been done in two phases.
The work already completed includes the development of a new entrance space and children’s party and education zone, along with the new ‘walk-over’ crocodile enclosure.
Phase two, the new toilet block with changing facilities and new conservatory extension, is under way.