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Ian Ritchie accuses council of 'Nimbyism' after bridge is binned

Ian Ritchie has attacked Warwickshire County Council for ‘bowing to Nimbyism’ after the authority pulled the plug on his RIBA competition-winning proposed bridge over the River Avon, in Stratford.

Last week the council, together with its funding partners Stratford District Council and regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, announced that plans for a new pedestrian link had been ditched due to spiralling costs.

According to the authority, Ritchie’s design had ballooned in budget by almost 50 per cent from initial estimates of £2 million to nearly £3.3 million and would not represent ‘value for money’.

However Ritchie has hit back, claiming the council is ‘hiding behind figures’ and that the cancellation of the project, won in contest ahead of the likes of Spence Associates and Wilkinson Eyre in late 2006 (AJ 30.11.06), ‘has more to do local politics than costs’.

The architect has also questioned the council’s sums. He said: ‘Delays and inflation have increased costs of the stainless-steel bridge by approximately £600,000 – not £1.3 million.

‘In the latest stages of the design development our response to counteract inflation and bring the project back within budget has remained unanswered.’

He added: ‘We ask [the funders] to reconsider their decision and not to lose sight of their international agenda, commitment and responsibility.’

The council has said is will now focus instead on the completion of other projects as part of the World Class Stratford programme, including the re-landscaping of the Bancroft Gardens – a scheme derided by Ritchie as ‘rearranging the flower-beds’.

Councillor Chris Saint, economic development portfolio holder for Warwickshire County Council and deputy chairman of the World Class Stratford Strategy Group, said: 'I am disappointed that Ian Ritchie Architects feel they have been misrepresented.

'Our revised budget figure of £3.3 million is a whole-project cost, including increases for widening the bridge, changes to access from the bridge to the Recreation Ground, new flood mitigation measures and enhanced public consultation activity.

'It was never intended that the £3.3 m was solely the construction costs related to higher material prices and inflation.

'We recognise that the bridge would have been a feature of the town’s regeneration, but financial considerations had to take priority in our decision-making.'

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