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Foster partners orwell bridges contest

Foster partners orwell bridges contest

Cost of Fosters’ Ipswich bridge project rockets by £43m

Foster orwell competition

The cost of the Upper Orwell Crossings, won by Foster + Partners following a highly controversial RIBA competition, has jumped by more than 40 per cent to £139 million, the local council has admitted

In a statement, Suffolk County Council said the new figure had emerged following an independent report into projected costs carried out on its behalf by engineer Jacobs.

While the report itself did not consider procurement costs, the local authority said that the process of appointing the architect had ‘incurred additional cost’ as had a number of design changes.

However, despite repeated requests by the AJ, the council refused to explain its claim about the architectural procurement or to say how much this element had cost against what was predicted.

The council’s leader, Matthew Hicks, also turned down repeated requests for an interview.

In a lengthy investigation published in April, the AJ revealed details of the highly irregular RIBA competition which Foster + Partners won, including the fact that the practice triumphed following a last-minute reduction in its fee bid, which should not have been allowed under the rules.

At that point, the project was predicted to cost just under £97 million, of which £77 million has been secured from the government. Cash-strapped Suffolk County Council now says it will do ‘everything it can’ to find the additional cash required and will make a decision on how to proceed by December.

The bridge project had been on hold while Jacobs carried out its review.

Council leader Matthew Hicks said the Conservative-run authority would be talking to all ‘significant bodies’ to explore funding options, including the Department for Transport, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, Ipswich Borough Council, the port and ‘anyone we can think of’.

The Jacobs report also suggested several ways of making savings, including value engineering.

The Upper Orwell Crossings project includes three elements: a major road bridge, a smaller vehicle bridge and a new pedestrian and cycle crossing.

Foster + Partners declined to comment. The RIBA has been contacted for comment.


Readers' comments (3)

  • 3 bridges still significantly less costly than the Garden bridge.

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  • Maybe 3 bridges for less than the Garden Bridge – but a 40% cost increase!!
    Something clearly appears to be going wrong here as well. Whether or not this is in the initial cost estimates, through the process & result of RIBA’s bridge design competition, or any other matters - the current proposals are now apparently referenced as ‘THE RIBA DESIGN’ option.
    The initial AJ competition & procurement process reporting in April raised significant material concerns. This should have been a wakeup call for the RIBA.
    These revelations warranted a transparent RIBA audit/review, & public reporting to establish future improvements & what lessons might be learnt - with recommendations for reforms. An early ‘Mea Culpa’ might also have appeared warranted.
    Yet none of this has apparently happened and despite the significant reputational damage to RIBA competition procedures that might now appear to be emerging.
    Having written to RIBA seeking action then, I still await a response. Other members should now also write to ensure that RIBA Competition practices are improved - so they can provide a robust standard quality and professional benchmark.
    Better late than never!!

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  • Beginning to smell like the Garden Bridge procurement irregularities - but at least one highly regarded design consultancy seems (so far) to have escaped censure of their professional involvement in that one.

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