MacCormac Jamieson Prichard's work has been put on hold for up to nine months because of a dispute between Hong Kong client Parkview and National Grid over the price of land on the site. A source close to the project confirmed that the architect and project engineer Ove Arup & Partners will end work temporarily this week because of the row.
The design team had been due to make a detailed planning application for a huge mixed scheme in April, with work starting on site next year.
This is now in jeopardy because of a dispute over the price the developer is to pay for 0.2 ha in the middle of the site, where a hotel is proposed.
Parkview believed it had agreed a deal under which it would pay £5m for this site but now it claims that National Grid wants an extra £1-2m. National Grid says it needs the extra money because, as a privatised company, it has to pay back a proportion of any profit it makes to the government, a process known as "clawback".
A price was reached some time ago, then National Grid said: ‘Sorry boys, this doesn’t work.’ As a result, the architects are being stood down
The source said: "The issue is the land that Parkview needs to own to complete the redevelopment. A price was reached some time ago, then National Grid turned round and said: 'Sorry boys, this doesn't work.'
"As a result, the architects are being stood down for a period while this problem is sorted out.
"Parkview has a whole in-house team continuing to do some work on the project but this needs resolving. While this happens, there is no point having a team of external designers continuing to work on the project." National Grid property services manager Paul Rayment denied that it had moved the goalposts. He said: "The clawback has always been an issue – we are still waiting for the developers to make a substantive offer. We are saying to it 'the government is going to cost us on this deal' and we are now a company that has to make profits. I don't think it has ever really tackled the issue of the clawback. The ball's in Parkview's court." There is also speculation that MacCormac Jamieson Prichard and Parkview were about to go their separate ways anyway. It is understood that there had been some tension between them, with Parkview demanding more exciting designs from a firm best known for its work on Oxbridge colleges.
The practice is also understood to have found working for Parkview demanding. Early last year, the developer removed architect John Outram from the project.