A plan for regeneration of the area was set out in the architect David Mackay’s masterplan for the city which began 2003. A more detailed plan by RTKL was subsequently granted planning permission. Public consultation for the Cargo site was mainly carried out in the context of these masterplans. The site was chosen for the first phase of development because it was one of the most self contained and not contingent on infrastructure.
The whole masterplan is being led by the English Cities Fund. The fund is a limited partnership of Muse Developments, the Homes and Communities Agency and Legal and General. Muse Decvelopments was the lead client and day-to-day project management was carried out on their behalf by Magma.
High standards of design and good quality finishes were set out in the masterplan and championed by English Partnerships. For architect Alastair Carswell of Ferguson Mann Architects, it was important to have champions of design quality in the client team. He described how the design’s distinctiveness was set out: ‘early design development explored how the four-storey height given by the masterplan could be adapted to generate more variety. This was explored by the design team through mini massing plans and three-dimensional drawings’. It was also important to create a sunny aspect, with single aspect flats only used on the east and west sides, and a minimal number of flats sharing a core.
The main building contract was let using a design and build contract with the architect and engineer novated to the main contractor. This meant that the design team’s expertise was still available when changes were needed. For the architect this is valuable because it allows ‘any changes to be worked out with the knowledge of the original design intent and ensures that these are successfully integrated’.
Also when procuring construction through design and build, the architect recommends that the client employ a strong contract administrator and Clerk of Works, as well as investment in a well prepared set of contract documents: ‘It is important to prepare good tender information with a fair amount of detail. While this limits contactors’ ability to make savings, it helps ensure the finished buildings, and particularly finishes, are of high quality.’
To meet the budget of £1200/m2 the design team prioritised investment in specific features such as good-quality, full-height windows and cladding materials. They made sure the planning was efficient with a high ratio of internal to communal spaces. It helped that the cost of excavation for the car park was met by the South West Regional Development Agency.
For Robert Poole from Muse Developments, Cargo is a beacon for further phases of the development: ‘in a challenging regeneration context, it is important to get the look and feel of the first building right as this sets the tone for the whole area’.