A raft of small local practices have called on New Forest District Council (NFDC) to rewrite its tender documents for new beach huts at Milford-on-Sea
Magnus Ström of Lymington-based Ström Architects said the council’s ‘ridiculous’ demand for £5 million of professional indemnity insurance [PII] in its pre-qualification questionnaire [PQQ] excluded all but the largest companies in the area.
He said: ‘I’d love to get involved in a project like that but we are a small practice of two people and I wouldn’t even consider applying.’
Ström added he would be unable to bid with a larger firm – such as structural engineer – without already completing three projects together.
He continued: ‘You’d think they could have procured it in a different way. The PII might be because the scheme includes concrete retaining walls but if the council is worried about that they could have always procured structural services separately.’
NFDC announced it was seeking an architect to design and deliver a series of ‘aesthetically enhancing’ beach huts at Milford-on-Sea earlier this month.
The reinforced concrete structures are part of a new coastal protection scheme and will replace a number of existing cabins which were severely damaged during last winter’s storms.
The appointed team will replace a large concrete slab supporting the promenade and create new cabins able to withstand similar storm events while being ‘visually attractive to the area’.
Darren Bray of Hampshire-based PAD Studio said he ruled out competing after his insurer advised him it would cost £40,000 over the next eight years to meet the insurance requirements.
For an SME this is very onerous
He said: ‘For an SME this is very onerous and that is why we and other local practices have taken umbrage with it.’
Calling on the PQQ to be re-written, he said: ‘There is a plethora of information available to local authorities about how to get good designers involved.
He continued: ‘This competition would have been perfect for a young local practice. It’s frustrating and it shows that nothing has been learned.’
He added: ‘We keep on making the same mistakes in the UK and all that happens is design suffers. This PQQ shows they are more interested in ticking boxes and covering risk than good design.’
Andy Ramus of Winchester-based AR Design Studio suggested small practices ‘looking to make a name for themselves’ might be the only companies interested in designing such a scheme which would likely feature a single structure repeated over and over.
He said: ‘Having looked at the PPQ it would be unlikely that even a practice twice our size would qualify which is a real shame. It seems to me to be another classic case of where PPQ and OEJU is totally inappropriate for public procurement.’
Paul Testa of Sheffield-based Paul Testa Architecture said: ‘[The PQQ] immediately sets the council’s risk averse position that, to be capable of designing a high quality and aesthetically enhancing product for that location, you must have access to hugely prohibitive insurance.’
A project like this deserves an open ideas competition
He added: ‘These shouldn’t be hugely complex or over engineered structures. A project like this deserves an open ideas competition that values ideas and design quality first.’
The council declined to respond to the architects’ criticism and said in a statement: ‘We’re satisfied that we have set our insurance requirements at the right level.’
The Hampshire coastal town once featured around 119 privately-owned beach huts overlooking the Solent.
More than half of the buildings were however significantly damaged when 80mph winds battered the country on 14 February and around a third of the huts have now been demolished.
The deadline for applications is 21 January.
How to apply
View the tender notice for more information
New Forest District Council
Telephone: +44 2380285588