Former lead architect alleges multiple inadequacies but developer hits back in speech to HBF conference.
A war of words has broken out this week between the developer and former lead architect of the Greenwich Millennium Village over responsibility for the scheme’s problems.

In HTA Architects’ submission to the official government inquiry, obtained this week by Building, it blames the joint-venture developer’s lack of commitment to Egan objectives for the scheme’s inadequacies.

Meanwhile, Greenwich Millennium Village joint-venture chairman Alan Cherry rejected the allegations in a speech to the House Builders’ Federation conference in Weston-super-Mare on Wednesday.

HTA Architects says the developer was responsible for the lack of innovation in the first phase because it failed to institute interdisciplinary project management teams. Its submission says: “The inadequacies of the delivery process are the root cause of the drift towards failure.”

The alleged inadequacies are:

  • Failure to establish, as proposed in the bid, a joint-venture company with genuine responsibility for the whole development. In practice, each of the housebuilders was responsible for its own development and the housing associations (Moat Housing Group and Ujima Housing Association) were not represented on the joint-venture board.

    The inadequacies of the delivery process are the root cause of the drift towards failure

    HTA Architects’ Submission

  • The lack of a properly resourced project management team with responsibility for managing the process in an integrated way, resulting in a lack of clarity about roles, responsibilities and objectives. (HTA refers here to a report prepared by the Tavistock Institute on a Greenwich Millennium Village Innovation Workshop of 22-23 March 1999 that said a lack of understanding and implementation of management processes would result in disaster.)

  • The replacement of every member of the design team, apart from Ralph Erskine, and the reduction of Erskine’s role. This made it it impossible to deliver the design vision in the bid.

  • Failure to develop the whole scheme to RIBA Stage D at the start of the process.

  • A failure to implement the Egan agenda for construction management, prefabrication and supply-chain integration.

  • Failure to include a mix of uses in each phase. Phase one lacks mixed uses and is split into two separate sections, rather than being the integrated townscape in Erskine’s proposal.

    I am confident that the independent review of the project will show that we are well on course

    Alan Cherry of JV Developer

    HTA first outlined these claims in a letter dated 28 June to Stuart Lipton, chairman of the Millennium Village competition jury and the government’s architecture champion.

    In his speech to the HBF, Cherry, who is also chairman of housebuilder Countryside Properties, said the development company was committed to deliver the standards agreed in its legal agreement with English Partnerships, and by a section 106 agreement with Greenwich council to deliver innovations and improvements during the life of the project. He added: “I am confident that the independent review of the project will show that we are well on course.”

    Cherry denied claims that the scheme would not integrate social and private units and said affordable housing would be dispersed through the village.

    He also announced a partnering arrangement with BT to develop the “intelligent infrastructure” for the village. He said this would include a community web site, home shopping facilities and community safety measures.

    Cherry also said the joint venture was working with Thames Water to develop a central treatment plant costing £100 000 for up to 50 dwellings. He said the target of 30% reduction in water consumption could not be achieved without grey-water water recycling but admitted that he was reluctant to invest in this. “There are no UK technical standards for the quality of grey water, and there are major concerns about the hygiene and maintenance of some systems,” he said.

    Cherry admitted that some available methods of achieving the energy-saving targets had proved uneconomic, such as wind power and photovoltaics. “A key issue for us – and for our industry – is that the UK supply base simply cannot meet many of our requirements, either because they have not been asked to before, or because the volumes don’t yet justify the business, or because some of these techniques and ideas are either just uneconomic or in their infancy.”