CONCERNS have been raised about a major refurbishment of one of Leeds’s flagship tourist attractions, after a £200,000 contract for part of the work failed to attract any bids at all.
As previously reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post, Tropical World in Roundhay - which is home to a wide-variety of animals, including meerkats, butterflies, birds, fish, reptiles, nocturnal monkeys, bats and crocodiles - is undergoing a major £800,000 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.
Much of the work is already complete or under way, including a new children’s zone and brand new crocodile enclosure.
However Leeds City Council was unable to secure a specialist contractor for vital work on the aquarium, despite some high profile names having been put into the initial mix, and an extensive tendering process that began in January,
Now the authority has been forced to bring the work in-house - or face the prospect of lengthy delays to the project, and lost revenues.
Workers from the council’s Parks and Countryside department will now carry out the work, aided by specialist subcontractors where their expertise is needed.
Conservative councillor Dan Cohen, Shadow Spokesman for Leisure and Culture, said: “I am extremely concerned that no specialist outfits were prepared to submit a tender, despite nine companies initially expressing an interest. This is really troubling. They obviously felt the work could not be done either for the strict £190,000 budget, or in the tight timescales required.
“The council seems determined to push ahead so the work can be carried out whilst Tropical World is closed from December 15th until the New Year.
“However, given the fact that no companies tendered for the job, and non-specialist council staff will be carrying out a lot of the work, I have serious reservations as to whether the refurbishment of the aquarium can be delivered both on budget and on time.
“Whilst I understand it would be disruptive, it may be more sensible to not press on with this work and instead pause and ensure we get in place the right contractor to carry out this specialised work. Tropical World is a hugely popular attraction and we need to ensure the work is carried out to the high standards required.”
Councillor Mark Dobson, Leeds City Council’s executive member for cleaner, safer and stronger communities, said: “Tropical World remains one of our city’s most popular visitor attractions, and I am pleased to say we have now moved to stage two in our exciting and wide-ranging refurbishment programme.
“I am confident that our fantastic parks and countryside staff, who will be supported on the project by two specialist contractors, have both the skills and expertise to undertake this particular piece of work on the aquarium space.
“Any redevelopment of the aquarium will be subject to strict building controls and is still on track to be completed as per the timescales set out in the original programme.”
It’s not the first time concerns have been raised about the overall project.
The YEP reported earlier this year that an additional £95,000 had to be found for work on the new toilet block, taking the total cost of the scheme to way above the £720,000 originally budgeted for.