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City calls for Heron to sue over London Bridge Tower

The City's chief planner, Peter Rees, has called on developers behind the Heron Tower to sue the government if Renzo Piano's London Bridge Tower (pictured) gets the green light from secretary of state Stephen Byers.

Rees said Heron should seek to recover the £4 million legal fees it spent on the Heron Tower inquiry if Byers decides not to call in Piano's 66-storey Southwark skyscraper.

He told the AJ that if the government was right to call in the 222m-high Heron Tower, it ought also to call in the 306m-high London Bridge Tower, or face accusations of inconsistency.

English Heritage has recommended an inquiry into Piano's £350 million 'Shard of Glass' on the grounds that it violates strategic views - the same grounds it gave for calling in the Heron Tower.

'If it's not about views of St Paul's, what is it about?' Rees asked. 'Is it personal against the City?

What matters most to people wanting to build in the City is speed and certainty. If we can't give them that, they won't come to London.'

Byers has three weeks from the granting of permission in which to call an inquiry. However, he could extend this period indefinitely by issuing an article 14 holding directive.

Southwark council said last week it was minded to approve the scheme (AJ 14.3.02), which already has the blessing of London mayor Ken Livingstone.

At a private lunch last week, Livingstone described it as 'wonderful', a 'uniquely beautiful building' and 'a new global landmark for London'. However, deputy mayor Nicky Gavron called for planning approval to include the condition that Piano will remain lead architect through to completion.

Developer Irvine Sellar claims he is legally committed to Piano.However, he said the decision to retain the services of Broadway Malyan - which initiated the project before ceding control - would be made by Piano.

Broadway Malyan director Peter Crossley refused to comment on the legal agreement between the two practices, but said it was his 'expectation, intention and belief ' to remain on board.

Even if it gets the go-ahead from Byers, further obstacles threaten the scheme, which relies on transport improvements at London Bridge Station. While T P Bennett has planning permission to upgrade the concourse and add retail and office spaces, Railtrack has yet to find the £200 million needed to complete the work.

Meanwhile, Heron is still awaiting the outcome of last autumn's inquiry into the KPF-designed tower planned for Bishopsgate in the City of London. Lawyers for Heron said it was not currently considering legal action against the government.

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