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BDP shuts four UK offices as profit halves

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The UK’s largest practice BDP is to shut its Belfast, Liverpool, Winchester and Edinburgh offices

The closures come as the firm, which has consistently topped the AJ100 rankings for the past decade and had 295 qualified architects on its UK staff, announced that profits for the year ending June 2011 had halved, falling from £3.8 million in 2010, to £1.96 million.

BDP has run a studio in Northern Ireland since 1965, and during the mid-2000s the office boasted more than 100 staff. The surviving 18-strong workforce is now going through redundancy procedures and the office will finally close its doors at the end of the year.

The practice blamed the closure on a ‘significantly diminished workload, which showed no signs of improving in Northern Ireland’.

Sandy Fergusson, head of the Belfast studio, said: ‘We deeply regret the need for this course of action, which has been arrived at despite the considerable efforts of all concerned over the past two years. The decision has been a difficult and painful one, felt even more keenly given BDP’s history in Northern Ireland and especially in Belfast.’

Norman Hutchinson, president of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects, said: ‘It’s very sad when an office that has served the province so well finally decides to shut its doors with a loss of jobs. The Victoria Square shopping centre in Belfast (pictured, see AJ 24.04.08) has made a big impact.

‘The action does reflect the recession here and the lack of new projects, although some offices continue to be busy.’

The company’s small Liverpool office, which was housed in BDP’s Stirling Prize-shortlisted Liverpool One shopping centre, will be shut and moved into the Manchester office while the Edinburgh studio will be re-housed in Glasgow with no loss of personnel. The Winchester office will also close.

Last month BDP confirmed it was undergoing a ‘process of streamlining’, which could see 15 per cent of the company’s 926 staff made redundant. Job cuts are also expected at BDP’s Sheffield offices.

“The UK design and construction industry is a tough place to be”

The losses follow delays to its proposed £420 million redevelopment of the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, and its failure to land huge schemes at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital and Papworth Hospital. During the last financial year, turnover fell by 17 per cent from £96.3 million to £79.8 million.

According to industry tracker Glenigan There was a 19 per cent drop in the underlying value of planning approvals for healthcare project over the eight months to August, compared to the same period of 2010.

Peter Drummond, BDP’s chief executive, said: ‘We had a reasonable performance last year, although turnover and profitability were down. This reflects the current economic context and commercial confidence along with public sector cuts, all combining to make the UK design and construction industry a tough place to be.’

Northern Bank, Donegall Square West, Belfast, seen from the corner of Bedford Street and Howard Street

Source: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Library Photographs Collection.

BDP’s Northern Bank, Donegall Square West, Belfast, seen from the corner of Bedford Street and Howard Street

BDP’s Belfast factfile

BDP has had a presence in the city since 1965 when it was appointed toasked to draw up the Belfast Central Area Plan.

Among the company’s most high-profile projects in Belfast are: the Victoria Square retail development; the Northern Bank HQ in Donegall Square; The George Best Belfast City Airport; the Laganside masterplan followed by the Bus Centre; Castlecourt shopping centre; PLACE Architecture & Built Environment Centre in Fountain Street; and BDP’s own offices, shared with IBM, at 2 Bruce Street.


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