'This was a challenging and imaginative proposition.
'I am delighted to announce this morning that I have brought to a successful conclusion the negotiations with the City Link Consortium to take this proposal forward. Heads of terms for the development are being signed this morning.
'The first phase of the development will be the creation of a new roads network running both north-south and east-west and I hope that all concerned will realise the importance of getting this completed by the time of the Rugby World Cup in Cardiff in 1999.
'Some 300 houses will be built along the line of Bute Avenue. Subsequently, the railway embankment will be removed. This will allow further development to the east of the square and the completion of a boulevard leading down to the waterfront.
'The centrepiece of the square is the site available for either a public open space or as the home for the National Assembly.
'This PFI will create a new business quarter in the city centre and will complete the regeneration of the historic part of Cardiff. At£120m it represents the Welsh Office's largest-ever PFI. It is highly innovative, bringing together as it does the provision of roads, housing and major private commercial development. It is unique in Britain.
'When completed, the boulevard will link the city with the waterfront.
At the southern end of the boulevard lies the Pierhead building, the proposed Millennium Centre and the most desirable and prestigious development site remaining on the waterfront.
'This, and the centre of Bute Square, are the two sites for which I have been negotiating. Following these negotiations I have secured this waterfront site as an option for the Assembly, free of charge.
'The immediate availability of this free site, adjacent to the excellent and modern facilities of Crickhowell House - already part of the Welsh Office estate - makes a highly attractive package.
'Also as a result of prolonged negotiations, the Pierhead building is available to me at a very competitive rate. A free site, existing office accommodation and the prestigious and historic Pierhead: these three elements together make an unbeatable package and one which offers outstanding value for money.
'This historic site, looking outwards to the world, will now be the focus for Wales' future. It will be the home for Wales' National Assembly.
'The new National Assembly building and the related developments will raise international awareness of our identity, make a bold statement about our aspirations as a nation and heighten our attractivenessto the international community.
'After its inaugural session in the university, the Assembly will operate from Crickhowell House via a network to all parts of Wales.
'The Royal Institute of British Architects has agreed to organise a competition to select an architect and design for the new building, which will be linked to Crickhowell House, and provide the Chamber and associated facilities.
'Taken together, these comprehensive and innovative proposals to regenerate Bute Square and Avenue, and the imaginative mix of old and new in creating a fitting and forward-looking home for our Assembly, are good for our capital city and right for Wales.'
The secretary of state announced on 13 March that the Assembly would have its main home in a new building in Cardiff and that two sites were to be considered in detail: on the Cardiff Bay Waterfront, linked to an adapted Crickhowell House, also possibly involving the historic Pierhead Building; and a site owned by Cardiff Bay Development Corporation(CBDC) in Bute Square, adjacent to Cardiff's main railway station in the City centre.
The privately financed development of Bute Square and Bute Avenue is the subject of Heads of Terms signed today between CBDC and Norwest Holst, representing the Citylink Consortium. The scheme, which is subject to contract and to the normal planning processes, will involve the creation of the Square, which covers some eight acres, and a mile-long avenue linking the City Centre with the Cardiff Bay Waterfront. Some 300 residential developments will also form part of the programme.
Mr Davies also announced today that the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has agreed to organise the competition to select an architect and design for the new building. Advertisements will be placed in May to invite expressions of interest and four shortlisted architects will be asked to produce designs, which will take into account possible use of the Pierhead Building. These designs will be displayed to the public. The winning design will be chosen by an Assessment Panel consisting of two architects nominated by the RIBA and four members appointed by the secretary of state. The competition should be completed by the end of September.