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Client 5: London Diocesan Board for Schools

Bill Learmonth projects manager, London Diocesan Board for Schools

The London Diocesan Board for Schools has launched an OJEU notice to find a framework of up to 20 architects to work across the 146 schools it has planned for the next four to five years. Projects range in value from £1.5 million to £20 million. (See ted.europa.eu, reference number 2008/S 204-271508.)

Bill Learmonth, projects manager, says: ‘We have already carried out some school-site redevelopment using non-traditional funding methods. On two of our projects we have joint ventured with housing associations.

‘We retain the freehold and get a school built on the lower floors, and we lease the airspace above to the joint-venture developer for flats and student accommodation. This effectively gives us a school for nothing.

‘It’s an immediate win/win situation and also a long-term win. If the joint-venture developer decides to pack up their things, the property reverts back to us and we can deal with the property above as we see fit,’ says Learmonth.

‘All our schools are voluntary aided, with them receiving 90 per cent grant aid from the Department for Children, Schools and Families for capital work. The extra 10 per cent comes from the governors.

‘Clearly the credit crunch will have an effect, and schools may struggle to find that 10 per cent. However, where there is a gap, we would not say they couldn’t proceed with a project. We would fund that difference until they could come up with the goods. We act as the banker.’

Learmonth continues: ‘We want to create inspirational and aspirational environments for both pupils and staff, and we endeavour to provide quality buildings. We are looking for good architects but not trophy architecture – the buildings have to be relevant for now
and for the future.

‘We don’t just want 20 huge practices. We want a good spread of size to give them all maximum opportunity – although we won’t know the full potential scope of the work until the early part of next year.

‘However, it is more likely that the primary-school schemes, with budgets of around £3 million, will come through first.

‘There are 7,500 voluntary-aided schools in the country and we don’t live in a bubble. Word gets around.

‘Other stakeholders take advantage of our framework, and we have been asked by our colleagues in other dioceses if they can use it. There is an opportunity there.’

How to bag this client: It’s a bit of a lottery but you have to buy a ticket – read the OJEU notice and fill in the form carefully


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