Derby City Council

Assembly Rooms refurbishment : Council will inevitably announce a cost overrun to the £24m budget – just a matter of time!

Last week, Derby City Council declared that the completion date for the refurbished Assembly Rooms had slipped from Autumn 2020 to November 2021. Despite this, they maintained that the budget will remain at £24m.  The Council’s announcement on 23 September 2019 stated:

“Perfect Circle, which was appointed to design the new Assembly Rooms, previously advised that the project could be completed by autumn 2020”

“A new external project manager had been appointed and Derby City Council has worked robustly with Perfect Circle on a new project timeline for this complex project.”

Who is Perfect Circle?

Perfect Circle JV Ltd is a Joint Venture between Pick Everard, Gleeds and AECOM; it was incorporated on 7th June 2016. It was established to bid for Scape Group’s £350 million Built Environment Consultancy Services (BECS) Framework. The framework delivers:

“..project management, quantity surveying, building surveying, commercial surveying, architecture and design services, civil and structural engineering, highways consultancy and engineering services and strategic asset management.”

Scape Group is a company owned equally by 6 different Local Authorities – one being Derby City Council.  Until June 2019, one of the Directors was Christine Durrant, who was the senior officer within Derby City Council responsible for the A52 Project.

In March 2019, Perfect Circle was awarded a £1.4m contract to “.. provide a range of multi-disciplinary services including project management, cost management, architecture and building services to drive the project through the pre-construction design phase”.

Original timescales and costings

The press release states that Perfect Circle will build on the feasibility study prepared in 2018. What it doesn’t state is the feasibility study, was also produced by Perfect Circle, including timescales and costings.

The Council Cabinet report of 12th December 2018 stated:

“At the end of July 2018, the Council appointed a project team via the Scape National Framework to deliver the feasibility work through the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) stages 0 (Strategic Definition) and 1 (Preparation and Brief). The multi-disciplinary consultant team has been sourced from the Perfect Circle Joint Venture (Pick Everard, Gleeds and AECOM) and included IPW, as leisure / culture venue industry expert.

An indicative programme has been prepared as part of the feasibility study, showing construction works commencing in September 2019 with a target date for opening the venue of Autumn 2020. There could be opportunities for bringing this date forward by undertaking essential and enhancement works in parallel and these will be explored during the next stage of design”

The report confirms that the 1 year programme will cost £24m

The position now…

The press release reports that Perfect Circle reviewed their plans in the summer and advised that the refurbishment would now be a 2 year programme, doubling the time from the previous plan.


Politically, the argument for a refurbished Assembly Rooms was that it would be much cheaper, and would be available a lot quicker, than a new build. The difference between the 2 options is now narrowing.

The Derby News article from January 2019 “Assembly Rooms: Is the Council’s ‘Refurbished’ option really Value for Money?” which was based on analysing confidential papers suggested that, in the long term,  the refurbished option would be more expensive than new build.

The completion date slippage is not another “A52”. Perfect Circle brings together 27,000 professionals, with depth and range in their skills with experience across many major developments.

In the March 2019 Council Press Relase, Victoria Brambini, Managing Director of Perfect Circle said:

“The Assembly Rooms is an important landmark for Derby and will continue to be an integral part of the city. We are delighted to be part of the project team working in close collaboration with Derby City Council and other stakeholders to ensure smooth delivery of this critical project.”


Mark Robinson, Scape Group Chief Executive said:

“…Procuring the project through Scape ensures certainty for the council: our frameworks are configured to deliver projects on time, on budget, using strong local supply chains.”

It is unlikely that the slippage is due to a “staff error” on a Project Plan.

The underlying implication is that the work content of the project has increased necessitating a further 12 months to complete. That work content will result in more cost.

It is inevitable that the costs will significantly exceed the £24m budget. It’s just a matter of time as to when the Council declares this!


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