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Shard demolition work put on hold until 2007

Developer says funding is in place but confirms the start date has slipped for second time

FEARS are growing for the future of the UK's tallest tower after its start date was knocked back by a year for the second time.

Joint client Teighmore, made up of developers Sellar, CLS and CN, announced this week that it had agreed a £196 million funding package with a consortium of banks for the interim works on the 72-storey Shard London Bridge scheme.

But the developer also confirmed that demolition work on the existing Southwark Towers building on the site above London Bridge station may not now start until tenant PricewaterhouseCoopers moves on at the end of 2007.

This represents a year's slippage from the construction programme published on the project's website, which had flagged demolition work to begin in the last quarter of 2006.

That date was already hugely delayed compared with the original timetable when the tower was given planning permission in 2004.

Then, Irvine Sellar, who has been the driving force behind the project, said that construction would start in 2005 for completion in 2009.

According to the developer's latest figures completion may be as late as 2011.

But a spokesman for the developer rejected suggestions that the project was in trouble. He said: 'It was always going to take time. The timetable we have given for PwC is a maximum.

'It is likely they will move out sooner. We are still confident that it will go ahead. It has to, we already have two anchor tenants.'

Currently Mace, Sir Robert McAlpine and Laing O'Rourke are understood to have bids on the table for the construction contract, estimated to be valued at £350 million, while Multiplex is also interested in the deal, having worked as preconstruction consultants for the job prior to the tender. Sources suggest that a decision had been expected as soon as this week.

One bidder said: 'It may be that some of the contractors brought something up in their tender submissions that have made the client think again about when they want to start.'