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Kevin McCloud interviewed: HAB, the Stirling Prize and Castleford

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My encounter with Kevin McCloud starts at a private members’ club off central London’s Tottenham Court Road. The TV presenter is bring filmed by Channel 4 in the thick of a design meeting for his development company HAB’s housing development in Swindon.

My arrival stops Glenn Howells, who has recently been appointed as lead architect, in his tracks. ‘Should I carry on?’ says Howells, agog at my presence. ‘Of course,’ says McCloud.

It is a public show of HAB’s solidarity in the light of recent reports. After McCloud and original project architect Wright & Wright parted ways, there were claims that the scheme was in ‘chaos’. There were even reports that Howells was working for free.

Howells jokingly says: ‘I’ve had so many emails from clients who are disappointed about having paid us now! They’re claiming it’s clearly not the usual arrangement.’

He adds: ‘This came from Kevin saying there will be public consultations on the scheme, which can take place outside of hours. All I said was that we won’t expect to be getting paid for that.’

Although Howells and McCloud seem to be a close-knit team, Wright & Wright practice principal Sandy Wright said McCloud was ‘commercially naïve’ over his handling of the affair.

In business for 15 years
‘I don’t even know what that means,’ McCloud says, while the Channel 4 cameras roll. ‘It implies a lack of business acumen. Is that an allegation? I’ve been in business for 15 years so I’m not unacquainted with employing and working with people. The important thing is collaboration.’

According to McCloud, Wright & Wright’s involvement came about when HAB was weighing up a partnership with another developer, Bioregional Quintain. It did not work out and instead HAB went into partnership with housing association Westlea, but retained the architect. But this arrangement fell apart, McCloud says, due to ‘differences in working practices and business arrangements, and one or two personal issues’.

McCloud adds: ‘You could argue that getting rid of a practice is difficult, but it’s not naïve. It’s what happens in business.’

Stirling Prize
For McCloud, this old news. His only concern with the issue now is that on 11 October he will be hosting the Stirling Prize in front of an audience of architects.

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