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Competition winner shunned as Newham chooses runner-up

Young London practice Piercy Conner was left disappointed this week after being named the winner of a RIBA competition, only to be passed over by the client.

The jury for the RIBA-run Brookes Road competition for Newham Council chose Piercy Conner's low-rise housing solution as its preferred winner.

But after receiving the recommendation, the council rejected the prefab scheme in favour of runner-up Bell Phillips Architects.

Piercy Conner director Stuart Piercy said he had received a letter from the RIBA Competitions Office informing him that the practice was the jury's choice, only to be told in a second letter that it had lost out.

Piercy said he felt 'aggrieved'. He said: 'It's not fair to win and still come away with nothing. The scheme we did was radical; hopefully that's why we won it.'

Linda Roberts from the RIBA Competitions Office said Newham's decision was 'disappointing but within its rights'. Roberts also claimed Newham had not attended the final presentations, a charge disputed by the council.

RIBA president George Ferguson condemned the council's handling of the situation, saying it highlighted the need to reform the competitions system.

'This sort of thing is exactly why I set up the competitions committee under the chair of Clare Wright, ' he said. 'This example points out the need for stronger guidelines in the competition process.'

Wright is due to report to RIBA council in the spring with her recommendations.

Bell Phillips director Tim Bell said he was disappointed to hear about the mix-up and was sorry if there had been some confusion. But he added:

'Obviously our scheme was what they were looking for at the end of the day.'

Newham also defended its choice.A spokeswoman said Piercy Conner's scheme had raised technical issues that made it unfeasible.

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