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Foster replaced in seaside switch

Foster + Partners has been replaced by Conran & Partners on the Royal Pier Hotel scheme in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.

Developer Birnbeck Investments said it wanted ‘a more hotel-orientated’ practice to take forward the redevelopment of the seafront plot.

The scheme is being backed by local businessman Jim Scott, who has had a long and eventful relationship with the resort, having previously walked away from a 30 million overhaul of neighbouring Birnbeck Island – since bought by Urban Splash.

Earlier this summer, Scott and business partner Wahid Samady decided to close the existing hotel after reportedly posting a loss of nearly 100,000. However, the pair seem determined to press on with plans for a new hotel and have shown initial ideas to North Somerset Council’s planners.

Speaking to the Weston Mercury, Scott explained the switch: ‘Conran is more hotel-orientated so that is why we changed.’

Foster spent less than a year working on the project to build ‘a multi-million pound complex’, which would have seen luxury apartments, a five-star hotel, concept bars, restaurants and 100 apartments built on the peninsula plot (AJ online 30.11.07).

The firm’s original appointment last November was hailed with a media fanfare. Yet no images of Foster’s proposals were ever released and it has subsequently emerged that PR agency DRA Public Relations, which promoted the launch, is now in a ‘legal dispute’ with Birnbeck Investments over unpaid fees.

It is understood that Foster + Partners demanded 1.5 million in fees for the scheme.

Former RIBA president George Ferguson, who is working on a project on nearby Knightstone Island, said he had always doubted whether Foster’s scheme was ever likely to become a reality.

Ferguson said: ‘The hotel overlooks Birnbeck and it’s undoubtedly a great spot, but I’ve always taken Foster’s involvement with a pinch of salt.

‘I do think there’s an element of talking things up here.’

In February, the AJ reported that the Tropicana, a new ‘Art Deco’ leisure centre a stone’s throw from the hotel, would ‘devastate’ the area (AJ 28.02.08).

A statement from Conran’s director Paul Zara said: ‘CNM Estates chose us because of our work nationally and internationally in the hotel, residential and hospitality sectors and we have every confidence that between us we can deliver a building worthy of this important site.’

Foster + Partners was not available for comment.

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