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Stirling winner gets knocked back

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Double Stirling Prize-winner Wilkinson Eyre Architects was brought firmly down to earth last week when a scheme it designed for Anglia Polytechnic University was rejected by the local council on design grounds.

In a meeting last Tuesday, Chelmsford Borough Council's planning committee rejected the application - for a 3,380m 2student centre and sports hall - by a margin of five votes to four.

The fact that an overall masterplan for the university expansion was given the green light and resounding support will come as little compensation to the practice. Neither will the recommendation from planning officers to approve the student centre.

At midnight, the committee was hung at four votes each, and chair Andy Johnston was required to make a casting vote. Johnston, deciding against the project, described the designs as 'just too damn brutal'.

And he added that Wilkinson Eyre's failure to turn up had also swayed the committee against the scheme because it meant the project lacked 'coherent advocacy'.

However, Johnston did stress that the committee was delighted with the masterplan provided by the practice for the campus, but had been dismayed by what it had seen of the student centre.

'We all liked what we saw in the masterplan, with beautiful, architect-designed drawings and artist's impressions, ' he told the meeting. 'The shape of all the proposed buildings hugging the river with a pedestrian spine route and new service road was very pleasing.'

'But, when we saw the drawings they were applying for in this application, we hardly believed we were looking at the same scheme, ' he added.

'This is an extremely important site for the town, ' Johnston told the AJ after the meeting, 'and there seems to be no evidence that the architecture could conform with the council's high standards.'

Other councillors also hit out at a failure to take into account the effect the scheme would have on the local environment as it could lead to a big increase in traffic and congestion. Another complaint was that the university had failed to consult local businesses over its plans.

However, both Anglia Polytechnic University and Wilkinson Eyre Architects have refused to admit defeat. They are already in consultation with the council's planners and have every intention of resubmitting.

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