The Richard Rogers Partnership masterplan for the 18ha site surrounding Wembley Stadium has been abandoned. The owner of the land, Wembley plc, has decided to sell the land rather than redevelop it itself.
The news will come as a blow to the practice because the site, equivalent in size to phase one of the Canary Wharf development, would have been one of the most substantial redevelopment projects in Europe. Property developers are now being approached via Deutsche Bank, which is expected to raise more than £100 million.
'We've spent a year trying to work out how to get more value from the site, ' said James Froomberg, Wembley's director of corporate development. 'We've concluded that there is a development opportunity, but not for us.'
Froomberg confirmed that RRP's plans would be made available to developers, but future buyers would not be obliged to adopt them. 'Whether the specific scheme Richard Rogers developed is exactly right, we don't know. We're not in a position to insist on it. Our first task is find the right property developer, ' said Froomberg. He insisted, however, that the decision to sell was not related to the delays over the stadium.
Brent council's director of policy and performance Geoff Raw said it was 'disappointing' the RRP masterplan might not see the light of day; the calibre of the practice could have generated greater interest in an area desperate for investment, he said.
'We were hoping Wembley plc would put in a planning application. In broad terms the plan did accord with what we wanted, ' said Raw, who stressed that any future masterplan would have to adhere to three criteria. 'It has to integrate well with the national stadium, it has to be a comprehensive development rather than piecemeal, and it's got to be a quality scheme.'
Wembley's design team HOK Sport and Foster and Partners is to be suspended from duty tomorrow (Friday) pending the outcome of home secretary Jack Straw's review of the scheme. As the AJ went to press, the board of Wembley National Stadium Ltd (WNSL) announced it would scale down operations in a bid to limit the Football Association's £2 million-a-month costs.
WNSL and the FA will concentrate on contributing to the Straw Review in the hope of reaching a successful conclusion.