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BBC moves to put design first in property portfolio shake-up

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The bbc's new £300 million property partner will be shut out of major design decisions for a giant new building at White City in London despite plans to introduce a more joined-up approach to property development across the corporation.

Property chiefs at Broadcasting House are planning to rush through architectural designs for the new 60,000m2 broadcasting centre before appointing a partner to share the risk of a £300 million investment in its property portfolio. A notice was posted in the Official Journal of the European Community last week, calling for development partners for the entire 522 property portfolio. But rmjm, epr Architects and Aukett Europe have already submitted designs in competition for the White City job, which will kick-start the property shake-up and meet the corporation's urgent need for more space. The three made design presentations two weeks ago after being picked to compete from a framework agreement list of around 15 other major practices. These are thought to include Foster and Partners, degw and Alsop & Stormer (aj 10.2.00).

'We are insisting the architectural design is sorted out by us in advance of the partnering deal,' said John Smith, director of finance and property. 'At White City the existing building isn't exactly an architectural icon and isn't very pleasant at all. We need to make sure that the other buildings are sensibly interesting.'

Scott, Brownrigg & Turner designed the existing White City building, completed in 1990.

The move to keep developers at arms-length from design on this flagship project appears to run against the bbc's plan to establish a better integrated supply chain for its property projects. It wants to cut its £40 million annual property bill by a third and claims that Egan-style improvements will help. The centrepiece of this strategy is the appointment of a property partner on a contract of at least 20 years. The partner, in association with the bbc's in-house team of 150 architects, engineers and project managers, will take responsibility for the White City project after a designer has been picked, followed by other projects in London and then in the rest of the country. Architects on other projects, including the planned redevelopment of office buildings next to Broadcasting House off Oxford Street, will be picked from the framework list. But property director Ian Robertson ruled out radical designs: 'We have totemic buildings already at the BBC in Bush House and Broadcasting House, so we're not about to embark on ego trips with landmarks.'

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