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ACCORDIA ARCHITECTS CAST ASIDE

The designs for Cambridge's flagship Accordia housing project are being value-engineered and the architects sidelined.

Plans by some of Britain's best architectural talent for phase two of the award-winning scheme are being dumbed down as the developer prepares to offload the site.

Landowner and developer Countryside Properties has confirmed that Accordia is on the market and that a fresh team of architects has been recruited for value engineering.

Countryside also revealed that lead architect Feilden Clegg Bradley (FCB) has not been appointed to the second tranche of the 382-home development.

Chris Crook, managing director for Countryside Properties' southern operations, denied the scheme - short-listed for the AJ-sponsored National Home Builder Design Awards - was being cheapened to enable a quick deal with a new developer to be struck.

'Our consultants feel we are legitimately value engineering without compromising the scheme's concept, ' Crook said.

A source close to Alison Brooks Architects - who alongside FCB and Maccreanor Lavington designed sections of the 9.7ha city-centre estate - said that the practice received a courtesy letter from the architect taking on the project.

'[Brooks] is disappointed and worried about the scheme, ' the source said.

This concern is shared by Maccreanor Lavington, which suggested a veil of uncertainty had descended on the scheme.

'We just don't know what is going to happen, ' partner Richard Lavington said.

According to FCB, Countryside has been pressurised into ditching Accordia by its funding partners following expensive delays caused by main contractor Kajima, who left the project earlier this year.

Keith Bradley, senior partner at FCB, said Kajima had not performed well on the project and had caused an 18-month delay in the marketing and business planning of the first phase.

'Kajima caused huge problems and this was incredibly disruptive. It was like Wembley, ' Bradley said.

'Countryside would be stupid not to continue with the existing architects for the next phases to ensure commercial quality. Dumbing down Accordia would not generate the level of sales we experienced in phase one, ' he added.

FCB was originally appointed master-planner and lead architect for about two-thirds of the project, which ranges from luxury villas to affordable houses and flats. Part of Accordia's appeal stems from the designers' thoughtful use of space and distinctive architecture.

But a source at FCB said the innovative designs could be weakened if Accordia is sold to another developer.

'We are not being given the full picture, ' they said. 'Accordia has been designed to a very high specification. This is not a formula to mess around with.

But while we would like to be further involved we are not precious about our involvement.'

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