Rogers, Lipton and English Partnerships act to prevent a repeat of Greenwich crisis in Yorkshire project.
A high-powered steering committee has been set up to ensure mistakes made on the £250m Greenwich Millennium Village project are not repeated on its £100m successor at Allerton Bywater, West Yorkshire.

The body, described as a mentoring group, will ensure that the developer, Aire Regeneration Partnership, delivers the design and construction innovations called for in the 1998 competition brief. This asked for a sustainable, mixed-use community on the former colliery site.

It will aim to avoid any repeat of the difficulties encountered in Greenwich, where deputy prime minister John Prescott has ordered an inquiry into allegations that detailed designs by a Countryside/ Taywood joint venture will not deliver the innovations required.

Who are the mentors?

The mentoring group is made up of two members of the 1998 Allerton Bywater competition advisory panel (Ricky Burdett, director of the cities, architecture and engineering programme at the London School of Economics; and David Shelton, development director at English Partnerships), and John Haymes, senior development executive at development agency Yorkshire Forward.

The mentoring group was set up after a July meeting of the competition panel, held in the light of the Greenwich row where architect HTA resigned over Countryside/Taywood’s alleged lack of innovation in June. The Allerton Bywater panel, which is chaired by Lord Rogers, reviewed a progress report from Aire Regeneration Partnership and then decided to act.

Stuart Lipton, chair of the Greenwich village’s advisory panel and a member of the Allerton Bywater panel, said the mentoring group was set up because Aire Regeneration Partnership was struggling to meet the innovation and energy-saving targets.

“No one should think these are easy projects,” he said. “In fairness to English Partnerships, it is working hard to make it work.”

Burdett said: “The idea was to set up a mechanism to ensure these projects meet the brief, rather than having to troubleshoot afterwards.”

He added: “There is a lot to learn from Greenwich. These are difficult, pioneering projects. Everyone is recognising that there is a big learning curve to make these projects work well, and to keep the design quality at the level at which it was originally envisaged. We will be performing a hand-holding role, to make sure project designers and developers work together to adhere to the fundamental principles.”

There is a lot to learn from Greenwich … we will be performing a hand-holding role

Ricky Burdett, Allerton Bywater Mentoring Group

The mentoring group first met Aire Regeneration Partnership, which is led by a Miller Homes/Gleeson joint venture, three weeks ago. A second meeting is scheduled for next week.

The Yorkshire village targets

The mentoring group will meet the consortium every two months to ensure it is striving to meet targets set out in English Partnerships’ brief.

These include a 30% reduction in production costs through innovative building technology, and radical savings in the amounts of energy and water used at the 600 homes.

The Greenwich inquiry, carried out by QS Gardiner & Theobald for English Partnerships, found that the scheme was failing to meet energy and cost-saving targets.

Clive Wilding, land director of Gleeson Homes, said of the first meeting: “We are finding it useful because panel members are able to bring experience from other projects that can help us. The panel gave different members of the consortium goals to focus on.

“Whenever you are trying to balance innovation, design, reality and cost, it is a fine compromise and it is good to have the panel to bounce off. It will check to see we are keeping the basic parts of the design principles and meeting the basic remit.”

Bob Miller, director of Miller Ventures, said: “We are trying to make [the development agreement] as explicit as possible and to get the right balance between good innovation and saleability.”

The masterplan will go for planning approval at the end of September. The first phase will start on site in spring 2000.