Government approved design teams will not work on eco towns without agreement says Communities Department

Government says teams bidding for eco-towns will not be replaced by government approved teams.

Architects and masterplanners working up eco-towns bids will not be supplanted with government-approved teams, should bids be successful, the head of the programme said.

Henry Cleary, deputy director of housing and growth programmes at the Communities Department was responding to concerns fears that the government is going to look to take control of the design process.

BRE's Innovation Park
BRE's Innovation Park

Cleary said that government-approved teams would not work on individual eco-towns without the agreement of the existing team. The government is currently running a design competition to “help inform” developers and local authorities working up proposals for up to 10 eco-towns planned by the government.

However, David Lock, chairman of masterplanner David Lock Associates, speaking at the Town and Country Planning Association’s Eco Towns’ conference, said he was “very anxious” the government would parachute the competition winners to work on eco-towns against the wishes of designers already working on the projects. “I will be really angry if this happens,” he said. “It’s a real turn-off to the professions – please don’t use the process to push us away.”

Lock used the example of his experience working on the Northstowe project near Cambridge, seen as a proto-type of the eco-towns approach, where he said the involvement of government regeneration agency English Partnerships had resulted in his company being thrown off the project. “EP has used tax-payers money to replace us with another team.”

Cleary said: “The competition process should turn as soon as possible to work on actual sites, but the eco-town promoter and its team will have to be part of that decision. Not all of the bidders have masterplans at the moment, let alone detailed designs, so there is a lot more work to be done.”

Cleary added that the government would be consulting with local authorities and regional bodies over a shortlist of eco-town proposals in the middle of January, with ministers making a decision about the final ten mid-February.

Trevor Beattie, director of corporate strategy for English Partnerships, refused to comment on the specifics of David Lock’s allegations over the Northstowe project.