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Carter looks to Wembley as Picketts Lock bites the dust

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Stadiums supremo Patrick Carter is ready to signal the go-ahead for a refined version of the Foster and Partners/HOK Sport plan for a new Wembley as the chosen national stadium, the AJ has been told.

Carter, who last week rejected FaulknerBrowns' designs for a new athletics stadium at Picketts Lock, London, is expected to rule out both building a new football stadium in Birmingham and signalling a total redesign at Wembley when he reports finally in less than one month's time after consultations with the Football Association.

Contrary to press reports at the weekend, which said that Foster would have to completely overhaul the proposals, the result is likely to be that elements such as the proposed hotel and office block in the scheme will be axed. The banqueting hall may have to stay, however, for revenue reasons, as sports minister Richard Caborn has indicated that there is no money left for the £660 million development.

But Birmingham planner Peter Wright said the Midlands team remains confident that it is still 'a level playing field', with an application being worked on for 31 October.And he doubted whether Carter will advise that England football matches should remain 'on the road', because future World Cup bids will require a 'figurehead' stadium.

CABE has resisted becoming involved in looking at the schemes' relative merits in design terms after its experience with the Met Office (AJ 14.6.01), when it came down in favour of Alsop Architects' scheme, but Broadway Malyan was chosen. Carter's axing of Picketts Lock, meanwhile, has been 'a major disappointment' to FaulknerBrowns partner Bill Stonor, who insisted that the scheme was on programme and within its £95 million budget.

Carter's cost-estimates for the project are thought to have included a 'super-contingency', and funds to build a new railway station, with £100 million more for extra transport infrastructure.

Stonor, though, is sanguine about the affair and has not lost money on the project. 'It has been like a roller coaster, ' he said. 'We weren't appointed until January this year and since then we've seen Wembley go up and down and athletics capability go back in, and all sorts of things putting the kibosh on Picketts Lock. Architects are always the Aunt Sally.'

Stonor said the practice had learnt useful lessons on designing a 'shrinkable' stadium, and had had dealings with the BBC and bodies such as Sport England, which will be utilised in future projects.

'The biggest disappointment is that we'd come up with something that was a bit special, ' he told the AJ.

The practice is designing a high-performance athletics training centre in Manchester, near Arup Associates' stadium, and another at Don Valley.

Stonor said the practice has also been cheered by a new commission to refurbish Crystal Palace Sports Centre - although the scheme has nothing to do with any proposals to keep the 2005 world athletics championships in London. Picketts Lock was to have been the base for the event, which is now expected to go abroad.

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