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Stockport sympathies bound in OJEC red tape

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As a fellow competitor, I sympathise with James Holyoak, winner of the Stockport town centre masterplan competition.

He does seem to have been poorly served by Stockport Borough Council (AJ 2.10.03).

But for its part, the council seems to have got caught in the complexities of OJEC competition rules.

In general, these rules completely split the 'creative' first stage (open to all comers) from the more demanding second stage, which requires a fully costed tender and supporting documentation so draconian that most small practices are, de facto, excluded.

To my knowledge, other countries such as Italy have tried to find ways around these silly rules. Stockport council, acting in good faith, seems to be taking a similar approach. Clearly it liked Holyoak's entry, and has offered him various forms of recognition that, alas, fall short of actually giving him the job.

In legal terms, I believe that this may probably be as far as it can go. Indeed, it would have been within its rights not to hold the first-stage competition at all;

the fact that it chose to do so did indicate a sincere intention to encourage smaller practices.

And, in fact, there is nothing, now, to prevent Holyoak from allying himself with a big practice and a good contractor and entering the new competition with a costed bid. He would be in with a fighting chance, since the new competition is to be based on his ideas.

Clearly, the present situation is unsatisfactory for all concerned. If, as you report, RIBA president George Ferguson does get involved, he might like to deal with this matter under 'revision of EU competition rules'.

Tom Muirhead, via email

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