High Wycombe business units that a former councillor described as looking “cheap and nasty” before they were built have won an award after judges were impressed by their “funky” design.

The HQube development, which features 12 units for local businesses in shipping containers, was inspired by the DesBox scheme in East Richardson Street. So far, seven of the units have been filled and Bucks Council says discussions are ongoing with occupiers for the remaining units.

Councillors were less than impressed with the designs for the units, on the old Compair site in Bellfield Road, when they were put forward back in June 2019, but seemingly judges from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Awards felt differently.

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HQube was chosen as the winner in the south east for best public sector project.

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But back in 2019, former High Wycombe district councillor Alan Hill said they looked “cheap and nasty”. He said at the time: “We do need start-up units for small businesses but they do look a bit cheap and nasty. I think they will look really out of place because there are some really nice buildings up there.

“They look as if they are very vulnerable to someone who wants to come along with a tin opener and steal stuff.”

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Despite the negativity at the time, RICS Awards judges said the design of the units was “innovative”, and selected the site as its 2022 south east winner in the public sector project section.

They said: “HQube is an innovative development utilising repurposed shipping containers with a vision to encourage local business growth and animation to an area of High Wycombe that was formally a yard laid to concrete for many years. 

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“It has been a difficult time for the construction industry and collaboration when people have been working at home, but this project has been completed on time and close to budget.

“This scheme was well conceived, with clearly a ready local market evidenced by all 12 units under offer at the build completion. The units are ‘funky’ and unique with their ‘north light’ roof pitches and re-use of former shipping containers.

“Highly sustainable, with excellent eco credentials and a good use of long-term public funds for small, growing local businesses.”

John Chilver, Buckinghamshire Council’s cabinet member for accessible housing and resources, said: “We are delighted to have received an award for this innovative design project.

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"Not only does it support our thriving small business community here in Buckinghamshire, it also embraces our commitment to creating a more sustainable future way of living in line with our Climate Change strategy.”

Another Buckinghamshire building has also won in the south east – the £1.5 million Cliveden Conservatory Café, which had a huge makeover.

Bucks Free Press: ClivedenCliveden

It won in the heritage category after the National Trust completed a major refurbishment project of the Grade II listed conservatory, which included replacing the glazed roof and adapting the building to combat the effects of climate change.

Judges said: “The project was notable for the team leader role, who is the youngest female building surveyor at the National Trust and demonstrates the Trusts commitment to diversity and inclusion, delivering a complex and challenging conservation project, adapting the building for the future, to be enjoyed by visitors to Cliveden for many years to come.”