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Block vote

The Heron Tower public inquiry has been treated to evidence of English Heritage and Westminster Council conspiring to chop down and/or 'pollard' trees to create 'new views of St Paul's Cathedral which need 'protection'. This sort of cooperation is not confined to skyline views, apparently. Some while ago, the council took it upon itself to demolish a block of stone outside the old Royal Fine Art Commission premises in St James's Square.

The reason? Someone allegedly tripped over it. Health and safety immediately zoomed into action, and out came the crushers. Alas, it turned out that the stone in question was part of an eighteenthcentury mounting block used to help gentlefolk get into cabs and, horror of horrors, was listed. What on earth was the council to do? Why, ring up its pals at EH, and get a retrospective listed building consent for the demolition. Having done so, its thoughts naturally turned to restoration, and there is now a project to replace the block. I hope no one trips over the whole lot and sues the council. None of this was mentioned at the Architecture Club meeting last week, where the guest speaker was EH chairman Sir Neil Cossons. He was given a rough ride by an audience apparently fed up with EH's inconsistencies and processes. He emerged bloodied but unbowed, and invited all to present him with further thoughts on the organisation's shortcomings. No doubt these could form part of the government's big review of EH now under way.

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