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RIBA Regional Awards 2014: Wales

RIBA Regional Awards 2014: Wales

I have lived and worked in Wales most of my life and despite the many differences with England it has many of the same problems. Recession hit Wales hard with many casualties within the profession and it is only now starting to recover, mostly in the residential sector. 

I represent a large practice here, but most are small one and two man bands that work in a different bit of the economy. Mine is driven by the public sector, OJEU’s, PQQ’s, ITT’s and frameworks. Theirs is more private sector, secured through word of mouth recommendation or just continuing to give clients a damn good service. If you are good at either then you will probably have generally succeeded during this recession.

Wales is a beautiful country with fantastic natural resources but a fragile economy. One of its problems is poor connectivity, with many areas still blighted by poor internet service. This restricts economic growth ­affects the work of rural practices.

Local authorities are now under severe pressure, with 2014 seeing the first full ­impact of public spending cuts which will continue for the next three years. The major impact will be on revenue funding and jobs, but it will also affect capital spend. Practices that have relied heavily on this will need to supplement it with private or overseas work. 

My colleagues ‘across the water’ (Severn Estuary) often say to me it is much easier in Wales, because there is less competition and the procurement processes are simpler. To a degree that is true, but Wales has embraced frameworks and if you are not on any you will find it tough. That is why the division between small and large practices has grown, with smaller practices unable to fulfil the PQQ qualitative criteria.

Coming out of this recession, the way forward for all practices appears to be the private client; the trouble is that Wales hasn’t enough of them.  We have the architects and the right skills to really make an impact.

Gareth Davies is UK business development director with Stride Treglown


Special Awards
Building of the Year: Copper Kingdom Visitor Centre
Client of the Year: Private client for Stormy Castle
Emerging Practice of the Year: Hoole & Walmsley
Architect of the Year: Michael Davies of Davies Sutton Architects
Small project of the Year: New Barn by Rural Office for Architecture