Deputy prime minister calls for full report after architect HTA resigns from “compromised” project.
Deputy prime minister John Prescott has asked for a full report on the £250m Greenwich Millennium Village after the project architect resigned this week.

A DETR spokesman revealed that Prescott had called for an inquiry after HTA pulled out of the scheme on Monday, claiming that the social and environmental innovations that won it the competition had been compromised.

The spokesman said: “HTA’s continued involvement, or lack of it, in the Greenwich Millennium Village development is a commercial matter between them and their client.

“We have been assured by the developers that the integrity and progress of this exciting project remains intact. However, the deputy prime minister has asked for a full report and assessment.”

Developer Greenwich Millennium Village Company, a joint venture between Taylor Woodrow and Countryside Properties, terminated HTA’s employment on the project after receiving an ultimatum from the architect.

In a letter dated 29 May, HTA director Ben Derbyshire demanded that the client set up the integrated project management structures necessary to deliver the scheme’s promised sustainability and innovation targets.

When HTA and masterplanner Ralph Erskine’s scheme was announced as the winner of an international competition early last year, it was hailed by Labour as an exemplar for modern living. However, it is still not on site.

Derbyshire has now outlined a list of alleged broken promises on innovation and sustainabilty in the first two tranches of development, which will be on site by 2000. He claims there is:

  • No mixed-use element, that is no shops or cafés

  • No “tele-services” or technology and Internet centre at the heart of the development

  • No serious attempt at integrating social tenures

  • No supply-chain partnering

  • No prefabrication apart from kitchens and bathrooms

    When I saw it was not possible to deliver what we promised in the bid, I stood down

    Ben Derbyshire, Director, HTA

  • No grey-water recycling plan

  • No research and development into process innovations

  • No serious attempt at public consultation beyond three poorly attended meetings

  • No serious attempt at delivering customer choice. The idea had been for potential buyers to be able to customise their living space.

Derbyshire also said neither HTA nor Erskine had received a formal appointment from the developer. Both architects have been paid only for specific tasks, rather than for overall work.

It is understood that HTA will take legal action against Greenwich Millennium Village Company to recover the cost of employing architects it believed it would need when formally appointed.

Derbyshire said: “I was identified by the client as design team leader or co-ordinator, yet I did not have a team structure to operate with. Responsibility without control is a serious problem. When I saw that it was not possible to deliver what we promised in the competition bid, I saw it as my responsibility to stand down.

“The competition was not to see what people are doing now, but what they will be doing in the future. It was going to be the Broadgate of housing – fast-track, largely prefabricated, high-quality housing. But any prefabrication is being done on short-term contracts.

Erskine’s office said: “We have established the vision and form of the scheme in the masterplan and in the character of the buildings we have designed. It is our hope that these will be respected by others involved in the project.”

Greenwich Millennium Village Company said: “The working relationship with HTA had been deteriorating for some time. It is ill-advised, if not unprofessional, that HTA has chosen to publicise a version of the background to our decision.

“We repudiate its arguments and conclusions. We will make no further comment since the matter is being handled by our lawyers.”