Practices selected for first four sites in Prescott’s contest warn that EP’s design programme may not be met

Deputy prime minister John Prescott’s £60,000 house contest has come under fire from its own selected architects, who are warning they may not be able to complete their designs on time.

Architects from the firms selected for the first four sites to be built said the programme, managed by English Partnerships, was “very tight”.

A source at one of the selected architects said the practice was going to ask EP for an extension.

The source said: “We are supposed to have a planning application in for December and to start on site in April. This is going to have to be debatable as this is a very tight schedule. EP wants it to be done as soon as possible, but we want more time.”

Ben Derbyshire, HTA chairman, said the problem was that EP had not consulted the consortiums on the schedule for the first wave of sites to be developed, and had created a timetable that corresponded to the financial year.

He said: “We have drawn up our own internal design programme.

We are asking for fast approval from our clients. It’s going to be very tight but we are not saying we can’t deliver it.

“We are writing to our clients pointing out the implications of this tight schedule. We are warning them that the turnaround time on approval will have to be very fast. We don’t have the luxury of time.”

It’s going to be very tight but we’re not saying we can’t deliver

Ben Derbyshire, chairman, HTA

Three consortiums were appointed preferred developers at the start of the month to build on four sites across the country. A George Wimpey-led consortium will build 145 houses in Milton Keynes with Richard Rogers Partnership.

HTA, a member of the Barratt team, was selected to build a total of 316 houses on two sites at Allerton Bywater near Leeds and Upton in Northampton. Sheppard Robson has been selected as part of the SIXTYK consortium to develop 68 homes at Newport Pagnell in Buckinghamshire.

The preferred bidders for a further six sites are to be announced by January 2006. The sites are in Dartford, Hastings and Maidstone in Kent, Basingstoke in Hampshire, Merton in south London and Aylesbury Vale in Buckinghamshire.

An EP spokesperson said: “No bidder has complained that they or their architect cannot meet the deadlines required.

“The site briefs have made it clear what the planning and start on site targets are in each case. EP has worked closely with authorities for all the sites to make sure that bids that fit the briefs are likely to get consent without much further work.”

English Partnerships has named Taylor Woodrow as the preferred developer for part of the Park Prewett hospital site in Basingstoke, Hampshire.