Panel reveals tea rooms favourite

A CLEAR favourite among the six architects bidding to redesign Belper’s historic Swiss Tea Rooms has emerged.

A three-strong panel met following a request from some of the entrants to judge their designs for the town’s River Gardens centre-piece against scored criteria. They listened to presentations on the designs

Scoring included points for the look of the concept, its environmental sustainability, and its conservation and heritage setting.

And the clear winner from this round of judging was the design by McNeill Beechey O’Neill.

The judging panel comprised Belper borough councillors Alan Cox and Martin Tomlinson, and the director of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site Partnership, Mark Suggitt.

Cllr Cox gave the McNeill proposal 85 points out of 100, while Cllr Tomlinson gave it 87. Mr Suggitt’s comparatively low mark of 65 brought the total out of 300 to 237.

The McNeill design came fourth in a public consultation conducted in March. The clear winner in the majority of the public’s eyes was Lathams, which only came fourth in the judging panel’s reckoning. Cllr Tomlinson only gave Lathams 48 out of 100 – the lowest score in the judging process.

Coming last in the panel’s scoring was the design by Gino Lombardo, with just 162 out of 300. This design came third in the public consultation.

The totals out of 300 given by the panel were: McNeill Beechey O’Neill 237; Letts Wheeler 202; Pleydell Smithyman 200; Lathams 198; Matthew Montague Architects 175; Gino Lombardo 162.

The scores, as well as the outcome of the public consultation, will be reported to a future council meeting, along with the results of further research with the catering sector about the commercial viability of the proposals. The council will then make the final decision on appointing the successful architect and design, expected to be in the autumn.

Cllr Cox said: “The final design has to be right for Belper’s River Gardens, and have a long-term viable future.

“We also want to make sure that the final design has the best possible chance of meeting the planning requirements of being within a World Heritage Site.

“It is therefore important to take the time to make the right decision. We thank all the architects for putting so much into the process so far.”

The full designs and scores can be seen at