Sacked architect hits back at Prescott inquiry into flagship housing development in Greenwich.
The architect sacked from the £250m Greenwich Millennium Village project in June has rubbished the government-commissioned audit of the troubled housing scheme as a “whitewash”.

In an angry letter to Greenwich Millennium Village advisory panel chairman Stuart Lipton, obtained by Building, HTA Architects director Ben Derbyshire casts doubt on the independence and validity of the Gardiner & Theobald report, published last week.

In the letter dated 24 November, Derbyshire says the report is not an independent assessment of the scheme because English Partnerships, which commissioned the report at the behest of John Prescott, is a joint-venture partner with the main subject of the inquiry, developer Greenwich Millennium Village.

The letter was copied to RIBA president Marco Goldschmied and the 12 members of the Greenwich Millennium Village advisory panel.

Derbyshire also says that the report fails to address the claim that led to HTA being sacked: that the developer had failed to deliver what it promised in its competition bid.

Derbyshire argues that the G&T report addresses a different issue: “Compliance with watered-down targets contained in a deal finally struck between GMV [Greenwich Millennium Village] and EP over a year later.”

Derbyshire points out that the only member of the scheme’s original design team still involved is Ralph Erskine, whom Derbyshire describes as having "a neutered role".

Derbyshire is also critical of Lipton’s apparent relinquishing of control of the inquiry. The only reference the report makes to Lipton is that Stanhope, the developer he chairs, was one of the 16 consultees.

Derbyshire refers to Lipton’s letter to The Times of 7 July 1999, in which he announced that the scheme would be subject to “an independent scrutiny under my chairmanship”.

Derbyshire writes: “Your role as chairman was always going to be the critical element in ensuring independence, given that the parties (English Partnerships and Greenwich Millennium Village) were joint partners in a commercial development. The expectation was of a report that would be delivered to the deputy prime minister by you as chairman.”

The G&T report addresses compliance with watered-down targets

Ben Derbyshire, HTA Architects

A source on the Greenwich Millennium Village advisory panel this week dismissed Derbyshire’s attack. “Stuart Lipton was the one who proposed an independent review, and he was the one who reviewed G&T’s report.

“Part of the investigation was an arm’s-length review by Gardiner & Theobald,” said the source. “The second part, chaired by Lipton, compared what the scheme was like in August this year with the original 1997 competition submission.”

The team that looked at the targets included members of the competition jury: Ricky Burdett, chair of the cities, architecture and engineering programme at the London School of Economics; John Miles, Ove Arup & Partners director; and Dr Euan Lees, chair of the Energy Saving Trust.

The source confirmed that Burdett had reviewed design layout, Miles design innovation and Lees Energy-saving targets.

The source said: “Taking HTA’s preoccupations, we asked: ‘What were the original goals of the scheme? Where are they now?’ Our conclusions were included in the G&T report.”

The source added: “HTA was right to express its concerns. Things were not as far advanced as they should have been. Where we are now, compared with August, is 200% ahead.”

The source went on: “I know the designers on board feel there is a much better dialogue than there was five months ago.”

A senior source close to the inquiry described HTA’s campaign to discredit it as “sour grapes”. The source said: “Ricky Burdett, John Miles and Euan Lees have checked everything out. No one can guarantee, until it appears, that it’ll be great. No one has managed to reinvent housing; you cannot change 200 years of housebuilder practice in six months. We all believe that it will make progress as a project. There is no point doing any more autopsies.”