Three of the UK's leading architects have bid for a £55m court complex in Manchester, the UK's biggest judicial project since the the Royal Courts of Justice in 1870.
Foster and Partners, Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners with Abbey Holford Rowe and CZWG with Hurd Rolland Partnership have all expressed an interest in designing between 40 and 60 courts.

The Lord Chancellor's Department has drawn up a provisional longlist of between 10 and 15 firms from the 48 that expressed an interest in the summer.

Paul Monaghan, the former chief architect at the LCD who helped draw up the proposals for the scheme, confirmed that big names were on the list and hinted that it included international names. He said: "There are big names [on the longlist], and they're not all English either."

Monaghan added that the list comprises local, national, European and worldwide names.

Many of the local bidders are known to have secured big name architects to partner with them, as the original notices in the European Union's Official Journal called for practices with court service experience and an international reputation to bid. One bidder said: "There are very few practices that meet both criteria, so a lot of architects have teamed up."

There are big names on the longlist, and they’re not all English, either

Paul Monaghan, former chief architect at the Lord Chancellor’s Department

LCD is using the scheme to pioneer methods of improving design. It is separating the appointment of an architect from the competition for a developer, to ensure it gets a high quality design.

It is also likely to offer an honorarium, or payment, to shortlisted bidders while they work up their proposals.

Monaghan said LCD's commitment to design is about "evolution not revolution". He added: "We're trying to bring new blood into the process – people who haven't been involved before."

Bidders approved of the moves. James Stevenson, partner at Hurd Rolland Partnership, said: "I would welcome the fact that LCD has introduced payments along RIBA guidelines."