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Ulster architects angry at Belfast BBC's English imports

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Northern Ireland's architectural community launched an attack on the BBC last week after the broadcaster overlooked local practices in the competition to design a £7 million expansion of its Belfast headquarters.

The Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) slammed the corporation for 'lacking faith in local architects', and 'flying in the face of any supposed regional policy promoted by the BBC'.

The anger follows the selection of three English practices to attend a competitive interview for the job. John McAslan and Partners and BDP both confirmed their involvement while the third practice remains under wraps. Each practice has been drawn from the BBC's framework agreement which will be finalised over the next few days and is expected to include DEGW, Allies and Morrison, Alsop & Stormer and Foster and Partners among others.

The brief demands that the architects have either a local presence in Northern Ireland or a partnership agreement with a local architect, BBC property spokeswoman, Jane Futrell said.

'What has irked local offices is this fly-in-fly-out attitude, ' said RSUA spokesman John Reid.'It seems that Greg Dyke has invited three of his London friends for a nice little job in Belfast.We don't have any problem with competition, but it is the total disregard for local architects which rankles.'

The BBC denied English bias and stressed that it would be working with Northern Ireland-based architects in some capacity on the project. 'We are very sensitive to this, ' Futrell said.

But local practices joined the attack and Robinson Patterson Partnership partner Barry Patterson said he was equally annoyed by the selection.

'We don't mind working with English architects, but we just want an opportunity to show our abilities, ' he said. 'My practice has designed corporate headquarters so it is not as if we are just building garage extensions.'

Meanwhile a local practice looks more likely to be picked for a new £30 million headquarters for BBC Scotland in Glasgow. The corporation is planning to run a competition which will be thrown open beyond the framework agreement and it will post a tender notice for the 18,500m 2studio and office building in the Official Journal of the European Community later this month.

Partner in Barcelona-based architect MBM Architects David Mackay will sit on the jury alongside the former director of Glasgow's year of Architecture 1999 Deyan Sudjic, head of the architecture school at the Macintosh School of Art David Porter and a number of BBC officials.

The building will be located at Pacific Quay, a new development on the south bank of the River Clyde which will be linked to the rest of the city by a new four-lane road and footbridge, currently in planning. The BBC building is dependent on the construction of this bridge which may go to a public inquiry later this autumn.

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