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Stirling Prize-shortlisted Maccreanor Lavington loses funding on troubled Pathfinder scheme

The wheels have come off an ‘exemplar’ Pathfinder project in Lancashire, piling more misery on to the government’s controversial housing renewal programme.

English Partnerships (EP) has confirmed it has withdrawn support and gap funding for developer R.gen, the preferred partner behind Stirling Prize-shortlisted Maccreanor Lavington’s proposed overhaul of the neglected Whitefield area in the town of Nelson.

Exact details of EP’s decision remain unclear, with the organisation claiming motives were ‘commercially sensitive and confidential’.

However, Brian Cookson, Pendle Council’s executive director of regeneration and an adviser to the independent Whitefield Regeneration Partnership, blamed ‘the current state of the housing and financial markets’ and warned that the proposed masterplan would have to be revised.

The news has come as a shock to both R.gen and Maccreanor Lavington, which has been working on the scheme since April 2006 after winning an RIBA competition (AJ 27.04.06).

‘We expected this to be full steam ahead,’ said practice founder Gerard Maccreanor. ‘Now it’s a scramble to see if we can go forward. It’s a delicate situation.’

Maccreanor is unsure of the capacity in which the practice will be retained, and fears that possible revisions could damage the integrity of the 300-home scheme, which would have seen the regeneration of large chunks of terraced housing.

Remarkably, unlike other Pathfinder areas, the first phase of development included the demolition of just 16 homes to make way for new public space.

Meanwhile, R.gen has reacted angrily to EP’s decision. The developer had bagged £25 million of private funding and secured planning for the project, which CABE described as a ‘quality scheme demonstrably linked to the quality of the design team’.

R.gen’s Phil Summers said: ‘This has cost us hundreds of thousands of pounds to date. Despite being part of the original competition and selecting us, we think EP wanted a big developer with strong balance sheets, not a smaller, “riskier” firm.’

CABE has also waded in. Caroline Fraser, head of regions, said: ‘We urge the commissioning clients to continue to work with the existing design team – albeit with a new developer.

‘If not, then there is a real risk that the high-profile competition and many months of creative work will go to waste and the whole scheme will be substituted for a bland alternative.’

However, Pendle Council’s Julie Whittaker, housing regeneration manager, said: ‘Following any amendments to the masterplan, we’ll need to look again at delivery options in the context of the current housing market.’

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