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Crest hints it will go for Ferguson Mann in Bristol

Ferguson Mann's £200 million alternative scheme for the troubled Bristol harbourside development was given a major boost last week when the site's developer strongly hinted it could be used to help replace the scrapped Arup Associates masterplan.

Crest Nicholson, the developer of the city centre, will consider around six architects to produce a new masterplan after the Arup scheme was rejected by the City Council in January. But its chief executive, John Callcutt, suggested the Ferguson Mann plans could be involved if its planning application succeeds in August.

'Quite a lot of politicians think it's a good scheme and we will look at it, ' said Callcutt. 'I'm very glad they're putting in the work and I'm sure something will come of it.'

The comments could mark the end of an ongoing conflict between Crest and Ferguson Mann partner George Ferguson over the way to approach the city centre site. The original Crest scheme included major office development and a multiplex cinema, and was attacked by Ferguson as being driven by the needs of property agents, while the Ferguson Mann 'Bristol Venice' scheme includes more housing, no cinema and claims to better respond to local needs.

Ferguson welcomed the move: 'It's always good news to see you are getting your message across. I'm becoming increasingly aware that people are buying into the scheme. My aim is that our profession grabs back the lead in masterplanning.'

He stressed that the plan still needs improvement and said that it could incorporate a number of different architects in its execution, in the 'same principle as Birmingham's Brindleyplace.'

The Bristol-based practice won support for its scheme last month from RIBA director general Alex Reid when he visited the city.

Meanwhile Crest has launched a major public consultation into the future of the area and a 25-strong group including politicians, local residents groups and the local chapter of the RIBA will draw up a brief and select a new masterplanner. The consultation is the first formal exercise carried out on the site and Crest has appointed Anna Coote to head the process. She is currently chairing the UK's largest ever consultation exercise on a property development at London's South Bank Centre, where 200,000 stakeholders have been canvassed.

The move is a major change in tack for the developer, which admits that it failed in the way it procured its original design.

'When our scheme was rejected by the councillors they saw it as a triumph of democracy, ' said Callcutt. 'Now we must not be stuck with the decision of a design selection committee. We failed through the inadequacies of the design competition process.' A new masterplan will be submitted for planning by early 2001 and the shortlisted architects will be announced within weeks.

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