‘Frustrating” move will hit Arup, Atkins, Mott, Make and others

The government has cut funding for a key collaborative project designed to help UK firms win work on Chinese “eco-city” projects.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has cut the funding, of about £280,000, despite admitting that the project linking UK consultants with Chinese cities considering eco-city development was “valuable and targeted”.

Alan Kell, director of consultant IG Systems and co-chair of the 36-strong UK-China Eco-cities & Green Building Group, said in an email to members of the group that the “regrettable decision leaves us with a number of serious challenges” in terms of completing the three-year project.

The commercial opportunity is incalculable

Alan Kell, UK-China Group

The project, called Prosperity SPF, follows the invitation by Qiu Baoxing, vice minister of China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, for the UK to be the strategic partner in the development of 300 eco-cities in China in the next 25 years.

The project is intended to formulate standards and delivery strategies, and then engage local government to identify three cities to begin development.

The FCO has already funded the first year of the project.

In a letter to the group, John Edwards, prosperity counsellor at the FCO, said the funding had been cut because the first year of work remained unfinished and its success could not therefore be assessed, even though this was due to delays by the FCO itself.

He said: “I understand this was no fault of […] the Eco-cities and Green Building Group and will be extremely frustrating to you.”

The FCO funding mainly covered the travel and workshop support costs of the firms engaged in the programme. Kell’s group includes consultants such as Arup, Atkins, Mott MacDonald and Make.

Kell said he was optimistic that a limited amount alternative funding would be found. He also said it could be boosted by an expected partnership deal next week between the EU and China on urbanisation.

“The commercial opportunity is incalculable,” he said.