Lord Rogers'plans to engineer an urban renaissance in Newcastle's rundown west end estates collapsed at the weekend, amid complaints from the public that his proposals were too dictatorial and warnings that architects are biting off more than they can chew on masterplan schemes.
The city council is now searching for a new masterplanner or a developer from the private sector to take on the 'Going for Growth' plan, and Lord Rogers declared that he will no longer be involved.
The news will be seen as a blow for the Urban Task Force leader, whose demand that masterplans are used on all significant regeneration projects was included in the Urban White Paper last month. Ironically, Lord Rogers' success at influencing the government's urban policy may even have triggered the breakdown in this scheme. The council's project leader, Shona Alexander, said the White Paper's promise of more private investment through urban regeneration companies and demand for better public consultation in the development of masterplans led to the move away from the Rogers plan.
Richard Rogers Partnership worked with Andrew Wright Associates on the masterplan for areas such as Benwell, Scotswood and Elswick, which the council describes as being on 'red alert'. At the time of the launch in June, Andrew Wright admitted there would be 'fundamental demolitions' and the council calculated that more than 6,000 homes must be cleared to make way for 10,000 new dwellings. These announcements were seen as 'too top-down' in subsequent public consultations.
'People want to speak to a developer from the local area about their own urban regeneration problems, not someone from outside, 'Alexander said. Chief planner John Miller said that the essence of the Rogers masterplan would still be used but a great deal of 'fine tuning' would be necessary.
The architect was angered that the council had attached detailed figures to its 'sketch' plan, which RRP this week described as 'containing analyses but no research or recommendations'.
'The council was very gung-ho about the figures and we got rather shirty about our plan being lumped together with that, ' said RRP spokesman Robert Torday. He also attacked the council's decision to widen the net this week beyond the RRP/Wright solution as 'somewhat odd considering we were competition winners'.
Newcastle-born architect Terry Farrell said that the problem displayed the inability of both architects and clients to understand masterplanning and he described the council's plans to tackle an area of such a size as 'madness'. 'Masterplanning is a new territory and throughout the country there are very few architects with masterplanning expertise, 'he said. 'Like everyone, Rogers has got a lot to learn. We need to build up expertise more slowly rather than biting off huge chunks. There is too much comprehensive redevelopment of places like west Newcastle. It can't take wholesale demolition - the best solution would be no demolition at all. '
The council is now planning to advertise in the Official Journal of the European Community for new consultants and development partners.