Tony Pidgley calls for experienced developers to be exempted from prequalification rules

Berkeley chairman Tony Pidgley has criticised English Partnerships for making bidding for housing and regeneration projects too expensive.

Speaking at the British Urban Regeneration Association’s conference last Wednesday, Pidgley said companies with a proven track record should be required to undergo a full prequalification process when submitting bids. They should be given the equivalent of a “kitemark” instead.

“It costs £200,000 just to prequalify – it’s ridiculous,” he said.

He also attacked the number of bodies involved in planning. “It’s become a political football with too many people checking it, with Cabe and the Greater London Authority. The average time it takes to get permission has increased from one year to three to five in the past decade.”

Alan Bates, EP’s regional manager, defended its procurement process. He said: “The reason you spend £200,000, if that, is that we are pressing our bidders for high-quality schemes.”

It costs £200,000 just to prequalify – it’s ridiculous

Tony Pidgley, Berkeley

The conference had earlier heard David Lock, the former government chief planning adviser, warn that proposed rules on density would make the provision of family housing impossible in city centres.

Referring to the proposed minimum density for “urban” areas in draft Planning Policy Statement 3, Lock said: “It’s not possible to provide houses with gardens at 70 dwellings a hectare – it’s now planning policy that families can’t live in city centres.”

But he noted that in EP’s development at Broughton in Milton Keynes, density standards of 30-50 dwellings a hectare had led to problems as the roads were becoming clogged by cars, which made rubbish collection difficult.

He said the solution was to revive minimum space standards within and between homes.