Fears Weston will be UK 'laughing stock' if See Monster delayed until September

See Monster's opening date has been pushed back after organisers confirmed it will not open in July.

See Monster's opening date has been pushed back after organisers confirmed it will not open in July. Inset: The legs already installed and an artist's impression of See Monster. - Credit: Archant

The organisers of See Monster have confirmed the huge 33m high art installation will not be ready for its intended opening date in Weston next month. 

Organisers of the attraction, delivered by London-based art studio New Substance and part of the Unboxed: Creativity in the UK festival, have announced a significant delay on the initial 'summer opening' promise.

Works on the installation came to a grinding halt in early May after the legs were installed at the Tropicana.

There are now concerns over whether See Monster will open before the autumn. 

A council source, who did not wish to be named, hit out at the group behind the plan.

"New Substance have been extremely arrogant with it all, from demanding their logo on everything to keeping us in the dark about time frames and delays," they said.

"They don't care about what we locals think because they've been given inordinate budgets by the government and don't want to be seen as failing - this is the public purse they're dealing with.

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"If they don't get it sorted before the school children go back, we will have missed a fantastic opportunity to bring the hundreds of thousands of visitors they promised to Weston.

See Monster branding already installed at the Tropicana.

See Monster branding already installed at the Tropicana. - Credit: Archant

"It's such a shame that their incompetence has led us to the situation we currently find ourselves in.

"Us ordinary councillors are worried we'll face the blame for their problems - we got everything sorted from the beginning, and look at us now.

"Businesses are going to lose a hell of a lot of money because New Substance can't get themselves into gear and sort out this dreadful mess - it's their reputation on the line here.

"The council are not to blame for this atrocious situation but if they [North Somerset Council] continue to allow New Substance to force our mouths closed and shut Westonians out of the conversation, then who can blame the public for thinking such things.

"Weston could soon find itself as the UK's laughing stock if See Monster doesn't deliver for the town as promised."

Originally expected to bring more than 200,000 visitors to Weston in July, organisers say the repurposed North Sea gas platform will now open 'later in the summer' - but were unable to confirm to the Mercury when.

READ MORE: See Monster plans revealed

First advertised as a 10-week family attraction at the Tropicana with education at its heart, the huge world-first event has already been forced to cancel 'dozens' of school trips intended before educational providers break up for the summer holidays.

An artist's impression of See Monster. 

An artist's impression of See Monster. - Credit: New Substance

According to Mercury sources, the delay has been caused by a failure on the part of organisers to acquire 'various permissions' which have 'not yet been dealt with'.

These would include a Marine Management Organisation (MMO) licence for marine activities in UK waters and a disposal licence for transporting waste.

READ MORE: Weston to host a series of cultural events shaped around See Monster's legacy

New Substance declined to confirm the current whereabouts of See Monster's remaining structural parts, which are reportedly still waiting to be shipped from the Netherlands. 

This would cast considerable doubt on the possibility of See Monster's delivery before September, ready for a late summer opening.

See Monster's legs have been the only thing installed at the Tropicana since April.

See Monster's legs have been the only thing installed at the Tropicana since April. - Credit: Archant

Planning permission to host See Monster at the Tropicana has now been extended until at least December 21, two months later than its original end date, of October 31.

READ MORE: Work begins on See Monster in Weston

The Mercury understands questions have also been raised on plans to transport the remaining platform - either by road or barge - as both options would require significant logistical planning.

Transport by barge would need to fall within high tides, further delaying the window for a prompt assembly. 

A North Somerset Council source told the Mercury New Substance had kept councillors 'in the dark from the get-go'.

One even went so far as to say: "New Substance have been arrogant know-it-alls right from day one."

Another added: "They've been more than economical with the truth."

New Substance refused to comment on the allegations but told the Mercury: "We and North Somerset Council are working together to bring See Monster to Weston later this summer.

"There’s huge interest locally in the project and understandably people want to know about the Monster’s arrival, details of which we will share as soon as we can.

"See Monster is a world-first and we're very grateful for the enthusiasm and support of local businesses and the community, as we deliver this unprecedented project.

"Ahead of arrival, we are presenting a free programme of events in Weston alongside our partners, that bring science, tech, engineering and the arts together. These have been developed with the local community and launch this week."

A dedicated See Monster news room is expected to feature at the Tropicana.

A dedicated See Monster news room is expected to feature at the Tropicana. - Credit: New Substance

When See Monster's delay was announced in a statement on May 27, it said: "Originally planned for July, See Monster's arrival is now anticipated to be later in the summer.

"See Monster is a world-first and we're grateful for the enthusiasm and support of the council, businesses and local community in Weston to deliver this unprecedented project."

Digital impression of See Monster.

Digital impression of See Monster. - Credit: New Substance

READ MORE: Could you volunteer for See Monster this summer?

However, some councillors have become restless with the organiser's 'lack of communication and unwillingness to come clean'. 

Senior town and district councillor and chair of North Somerset's scrutiny panel, John Crockford-Hawley, said: "I'm not one of the councillors directly involved in the See Monster project, so I wouldn't wish to speculate about reasons for the obvious delay in bringing remaining platform stages to the Tropicana. 

"While I have no substantive reason for doubting See Monster's eventual arrival in the latter part of this summer, nor do I doubt its potential benefit to Weston, I do believe the recent minimalist approach to communication by New Substance has somewhat undermined public confidence, and led to a degree of sceptical social media chatter.

"I look forward to improved public information and the project's eventual success."

Weston will host See Monster as one of 10 major exhibitions being held across the UK this summer, funded by the government.

The repurposed gas platform's key features will focus entirely on renewable energy, sourcing its power from solar panels, wind turbines, a 10-metre waterfall, solar trees, and a planted garden featured throughout. 

An artists impression of See Monster.

An artists impression of See Monster. - Credit: New Substance

An amphitheatre is also hoped to be located at the very top of the structure for events and will broadcast the shipping forecast as part of its celebration of the weather.