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Rock slams Luton council for cut-price design contest

The RIBA president, David Rock, has attacked yet another drastically cut-price design competition, which he says will leave winning architects tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Rock rounded on Luton Borough Council for inviting architects to enter a museum extension competition with a winning prize of £5000. The scheme must be developed to planning permission stage and as a submission for heritage lottery funding. Rock said that as the budget is £1.5 million, the normal fee for work up to stage D would be up to £70,000. This would include costing by a QS and expenses. He said he was deeply concerned and annoyed by the 'pitifully low fee'.

Dr Robin Holgate, the museum's curator, said he had been advised on costs by his council architects, who were RIBA members. 'I'm in a Catch 22 situation, ' he said. 'I do not have the money to do the project but unless I spend money to get it up to planning stage and for a lottery submission, I cannot carry it through. I am not trying to do things in an underhand way. If there is a profess iona l code of conduct I will do what I can.' Some 102 architects have enquired about the competition, and four have entered so far.

Meanwhile, Rock wrote again last week to Wandsworth council, in the latest in a saga over the £10 million Barn Elms sports centre. He has called the fixed fee of 4.5 per cent 'one of the worst examples of fee-cutting I have come across in my professional life, ' saying that a fee of nearer 15 per cent would be fair.

In his latest letter, to Wandsworth chief executive Gerald Jones, Rock wonders whether the 'staggeringly high discount of 60-70 per cent on a fee-tendered project does not refer to a simple shedlike industrial building'.

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