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Corporation of London savages EH

The Corporation of London has called for English Heritage's powers to be drastically curbed and suggested the quango could be merged with CABE. In a savage attack, the corporation claimed that EH interferes in the work of other organisations.

The criticisms, contained in a letter to the DCMS, forms the corporation's contribution to government's five-year review into the future of the heritage body. It accuses EH of hindering the planning process and says serious consideration should be given to its 'amalgamation' with CABE.

Archie Galloway, common councilman with the Corporation of London, claimed the document 'reflects the views of all 33 boroughs in London', and said he expected all of them to respond 'in a similar vein'. EH has overstretched its powers, he said, and there was a need to 'wind back the clock'.

The letter, seen by the AJ, proposes stripping EH of its powers to recommend listing and to designate and advise on conservation areas. And, in the wake of the corporation and EH's head-tohead over the Heron Tower, it suggests CABE alone should be consulted over plans for tall buildings.

The corporation also accuses EH of being out of touch with the economic reality of inner-city development and making the process 'more cumbersome and difficult'. And it claims a lack of transparency within the organisation adds to the unpredictability of its judgements.

Commenting on the proposals, City planning officer Peter Rees said EH had become increasingly involved in 'subjective' and 'negative' decisionmaking and risked driving developers out of the city. '[EH] can get a bit detached from the real world that we find ourselves in with developers, ' he said.

'They should stick with the high end cultural stuff and not get involved with planning authorities.'

But Westminster head of planning Carl Powell said his own response to the DCMS supported the status quo - CABE and EH have different briefs that balance and complement one another. 'It would be like trying to mix apples with pears, ' he said. And he added: 'The City corporation has a bad taste in its mouth following the Heron Inquiry. Other central London boroughs take a more balanced position.'

CABE deputy chairman Paul Finch ruled out the suggestion of a merger: 'Clearly CABE and EH do have some overlapping interests. However, EH is a statutory body and CABE is advisory and any change in that status, let alone any idea of combining the organisations, would represent a very profound shift.'

English Heritage refused to comment on the contents of the letter but welcomed the review. It said that it was already moving towards greater transparency in line with the Freedom of Information Act and that the minutes of its main committees were already available online.

The DCMS expects the review to be completed by the summer.

lSee leader, page 16 and the full letter online .

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