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Tayside firms dip out of bidding to build spectacular Dundee waterfront whale

The whale will be a spectacular addition to the Waterfront beside V and A Dundee.
The whale will be a spectacular addition to the Waterfront beside V and A Dundee.

Local firms have passed up on the £1.7 million contract to create a spectacular whale sculpture beside the River Tay.

The massive 40-metre humpback is to be the stunning centrepiece of an interactive playpark at Waterfront Place near the city’s V&A museum.

City development councillors are set to award the contract to Rugby-based Morgan Sindall on Monday.

No local firms put in a bid for the seven-figure contract because of the specialist nature and scale of the project.

The whale sculpture will measure around 36m x 19m and be created from layers of differing sizes of circular hollow tubes supported on three cruciform columns.

waterfront tay whale
Lee Simmons’ spectacular humpback whale design.

It has been designed by award-winning British artist Lee Simmons.

The whale’s tail will arch towards the River Tay to capture a sense of movement.

A series of maze-like steel structures will also be built around the whale to represent kelp forests or water columns.

The park will also feature specialist programmable lighting.

Image released of huge Tay whale sculpture planned for Dundee waterfront

City development committee convener, Councillor Mark Flynn said: “The quality of the work at Waterfront Place is critical to ensuring that visitors and local people feel like they are not just in one of the city’s prime spots, but in one of the best locations in Scotland.

“It is also vital that the sculpture is durable and able to withstand the marine environment at the waterfront, while also being low maintenance.

“The size, scale and unique complexity of the whale sculpture has meant that limited suppliers are capable of manufacturing it, despite engaging with a local fabricator.”

Project presented challenges for specialist firms

Officials said a number of other firms declined to bid for the work due to the challenges of preventing cross contamination between mild steel and stainless steel during their fabrication process.

“The local fabricator declined to submit a price having reviewed the complexity, scale and detailing for the sculpture and confirmed that the installation and overall logistics of this project was outwith their current capacity,” say officials in the committee report.

Morgan Sindall’s tender for the whale sculpture was just over £1m.

Other elements of the interactive park including the lighting and landscaping take the total contract value to £1.73m.

Local spend on scheme running at more than 90%.

However, city council officials have said local spend is continually being monitored as part of the wider contract.

More than three-quarters of the spend in the overall scheme will stay with local firms.

The report adds: “The percentage of sub-contractor spend, allocated locally within 35 mile radius of the site, to date is currently sitting at 93%.

“Taking cognisance of the sculpture and digital play being sourced from outwith the local area due to the specific nature of the works, the projected local spend is forecast at 78% for the overall project.”

Dundee Labour city development spokesman, Councillor Richard McCready said: “I welcome progress on Waterfront Place.

“I will always look for the city council to try and keep contracts as local as possible.

“It is a shame that this appears not to have been possible in this case, but the Labour group will continue to make the case for retaining jobs and wealth in our community.”

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