Once we reached our crowdfunding target back in November 2015 – we spent time drafting and re-drafting a design feasibility study brief – this was an instruction of the jobs that we identified needed to be carried out to be able to prove that the Coal Line was a feasible concept in practice. Once this was done we posted the brief on our website here, spread the word through social media and the industry press (such as Architects Journal, bdonline) and asked for consortium's of firms interested to tender for the work.
Why consortiums? The study will involve surveying, engineering, architectural design, landscaping, environmental studies and business case development – disciplines that likely require skills outside of a single firm – so it is not unusual for partnerships to be formed for such a purpose.
We then invited all the applicants to walk the route of the line with us in January – the walk many of you will have done. They had lots of questions - which we then shared online and those still keen then submitted a tender document, 10 pages outlining their approach. We received 19 applications, made up of consortium's totalling 80 firms all in.
After much consideration we shortlisted to six for interview. The basis for this was in part based on their expertise; in part on their understanding of how this is not your usual project, it coming from the ground up, as it were, and not top-down. There were a number of stakeholders involved in this short-listing process:
- The Friends of Peckham Coal Line – the charity we have organised ourselves as to oversee the project. We represent the community.
- Network Rail – the majority landowner.
- Southwark council – the secondary landowner, donor and planning authority.
- The Greater London Authority – a donor and the body with overall planning responsibility for London.
- The Friends of Kirkwood Nature Reserve – the team of local volunteers who look after one of the existing green spaces along the route.
- Peckham Vision – the well-established community group with a proven legacy of working to safeguard the nature of Peckham.
We had a long day of interviews which took place in the Thames Reach Employment Academy on Peckham Road on 4th March (and we had lunch at the great new cafe BrewBird round the corner). We asked each firm to share a 5 minute presentation, we asked a set of standard questions to each of them about their ambition, autenticity and their approach and then we asked them each to do a 90 second pitch to the local community about what the design and feasibility study would mean for them.
All involved we blown away by the number and quality of the submissions for such a project. We learnt alot through by reading so many submissions and meeting a whole bunch of passionate and talented people. Many of the firms were excited that this was a locally led, crowd funded project that makes it unique and requires a different approach - they recognised the potential this brings for Peckham but for projects far and wide too.