Conflict fears hit Rogers' GLA role
Lord Rogers' plan to implement his vision of an urban renaissance in London as a paid consultant to the Greater London Authority has been held up by legal wrangles over the possibility of conflicts of interest, the AJ has learned.
GLA officials said negotiations with the architect have overrun and this week lawyers for both Richard Rogers Partnership (RRP) and the GLA remained embroiled in attempts to iron out potential conflicts between Lord Rogers' advice to the GLA and his work for his practice.
The matter is causing uncertainty among strategists and policy advisers at the GLA and one senior official in the GLA's planning arm described Lord Rogers' role as 'totally murky'. He said: 'If he [Rogers]was looking at a site where his company had been involved in the past, other consultants working there now would not be happy. Some [applicants for planning permission] are suspicious that he would want to redesign their buildings.'
Another official in the mayor's office said that both parties were being careful to avoid 'the possibility of suspicion because of an architect advising on city-wide issues'. The proposed consultancy deal will cost taxpayers about £130,000 in the financial year 2001 to 2002 and Lord Rogers will pay his fee over to RRP in compensation for his time spent on GLA business.
'The obvious point about possible conflicts of interest has been considered carefully, ' Lord Rogers said in a statement this week. 'As with any public body, the GLA has its own strict code of practice which applies to all members, advisors and officers. It will apply to me and I will of course abide by it.'
An RRP spokesman described the legal negotiations as 'fine tuning', but both sides admitted that the nature of Lord Rogers' appointment has yet to be settled.
Ken Livingstone first approached Lord Rogers for the position at least two months ago, on top of his existing unpaid role as a member of Livingstone's advisory cabinet, which meets for just two hours a month. The consultancy position, understood to take up two to three days a week, would make Lord Rogers responsible for advising on the formulation of the GLA's critical spatial development strategy document and its implementation.
GLA sources said this will mean Lord Rogers advising on development plans for about six key areas in the capital. In September Livingstone told the AJ: 'We've had the Urban Task Force and its been pigeon-holed by the government. Now I've said to him here's a city, do it here, show it can work.'
RRP is currently working on a string of sensitive sites in London which could potentially lead to conflicts of interest with Lord Rogers' role as a strategic consultant. The largest of these is the £2 billion plan to build a fifth terminal at Heathrow but others include a masterplan for the area around the new Wembley Stadium, a masterplan for the arts quarter around Tate Modern in Southwark and a tower block on the Paddington Basin site.
'In the current climate of public scrutiny of government, it is much more difficult than in the past for this kind of arrangement to work and that remains a risk, ' said London School of Economics cities specialist Tony Travers. One threat comes from the assembly members who still have the power to cut the budget for Rogers' appointment.