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Architecture big guns join fight to save Pimlico School


More major figures from the world of architecture have objected to proposals by Westminster council to demolish the iconic Modernist Pimlico School. The council said this week that more than 350 individuals and 12 residents' associations have objected to the £49.5 million plans. They include Sir Denys Lasdun, riba past presidents Michael Manser and Owen Luder, aa chair Mohsen Mostafavi, historian Lord Briggs, former Royal Fine Art Commission secretary Sherban Cantacuzino, architectural historians Jill Lever and Hermione Hobhouse, and the Greater London Architecture Club, headed by Jake Brown.

Those names join an already impressive list including Sir Philip Powell and current riba president David Rock, while the school governors and Westminster mp Peter Brooke have asked deputy prime minister John Prescott asking to call a public inquiry, as has the Twentieth Century Society.

Campaigners argued this week that the controversial proposals to redevelop Pimlico School conflict with new national policy on affordable housing provision - yet the demolition and rebuild project has been secured by £25 million of government support.

Chicl, Communites and Homes in Central London, told the aj that the pfi is riding roughshod over the government's own plans to reduce social exclusion by enforcing levels of affordable housing. Chicl is concerned about areas of London which are developing without a social mix. The Pimlico pfi seeks to build 160 luxury 'Cubitt-style' homes, but none in the 'affordable' bracket, despite a strong government circular on planning and affordable housing issued last April which says that affordable housing will be of material consideration in determining planning applications. 'It stinks for New Labour to be associated with this and is a clear conflict between two strands of policy,' said Chicl's George Nicholson. 'Its investment in this balance-sheet approach to urban management and regeneration runs counter to planning objectives. Planning permission is being sold.'

The pfi process also requires evidence that a project is value for money to get government support, proved by establishing a public-sector comparator, which the bidders must beat on price. With Pimlico, the valuation on the so-called 'surplus land' for the housing element is based on getting planning permission which sticks to policy - ie udp densities and 25 per cent affordable housing. The developer can produce a surplus land value 300 per cent greater by ignoring policy on affordable housing and density. So, critics say, the pfi scheme circumnavigates government affordable housing policy to get government funding.

The Pimlico scheme was drawn up by Ellis Williams. The planning application goes to the council's planning committee on 18 February but there is, as yet, said Westminster, no planning officers' recommendation.

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