Design winner praises ‘bold’ council

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The winner of Fenland District Council’s Coalwharf Road design competition has praised the council for its bold initiative in launching the contest and its efforts to promote good design across the whole area.

Peterborough-based architects BM Design Consultancy were named as the winners at the council’s Building Design Awards ceremony in Wisbech this week.

Robert Chiva, head of the firm, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to have got this great opportunity in such an interesting location. Obviously we hoped we’d win but we had no idea we had until the result was actually announced.

“It’s good to see Fenland taking such a proactive role in encouraging good design because that’s not always the case. The leader of the council and its members and officers should be congratulated for going down this route.”

Mr Chiva said their design sought to complement the historic Georgian architecture, taking its cue from the existing buildings on North and South Brink.

“We consider that a very modern building, however well designed, would clash with and detract from this historic setting,” he said. “It would be incongruous that the place at which historic Wisbech starts should be marked with a modernistic building.”

The “design, acquire and build” competition was launched in the summer by FDC leader, Councillor Alan Melton as part of a wider drive to raise the bar in design for Fenland.

He told this week’s awards ceremony: “Many design competitions produce an array of fascinating and attractive concepts, but remain just that - ‘a concept’. I wanted to launch a competition that would not only test the design expertise of the competitors, but also challenge them to deliver their vision, with a viable and deliverable development scheme.”

The competition attracted interest from 13 architects’ firms from across the country. Seven initial design concepts were submitted; they were whittled down to a shortlist of four, who all then submitted more detailed proposals.

The three firms competing with BM Design Consultancy were Studio AVC and ECD Architects, both from London, and Paul Bancroft Architects from Oundle, near Peterborough.

Studio AVC’s design combined various retail units such as a café, art gallery, bookshop and workshops with flats on the upper levels.

ECD Architects proposed a courtyard development of 13 homes that included apartments and two-bedroom mews houses and featured dramatic green “living” walls.

Paul Bancroft Architects suggested a scheme made up of a new catering college, café and restaurant and 33 quality bedsit flats. It would be operated in conjunction with the Luminus Group’s Ferry Project.

Cllr Melton paid tribute to “the quality and diversity of all these exceptional proposals” before announcing the winner.

BM Design Consultancy will now be working with Fenland District Council and Postland Developments from Peterborough to deliver the project.