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EH backtracks on Minerva Tower

English Heritage has withdrawn its opposition to Grimshaw's £350 million Minerva Tower planned for London's St Botolph's Street. The heritage body has reversed its position on the 43-storey tower, after previously pledging to oppose it (AJ 28.11.02).

However, although EH will not now be pushing for a call in, it continues to argue that the tower will have a detrimental effect on the setting of the Tower of London. And if the secretary of state decides to hold an inquiry for his own decision, it will present its criticisms.

In a letter to the Corporation of London outlining its position, EH's London Region director Philip Davies said the absence of a 'clear London-wide strategic framework' for tall buildings was a 'major concern'. 'We are profoundly concerned that this renders world-class historic sites such as the Tower of London and St Paul's Cathedral highly vulnerable, ' the letter says. 'English Heritage firmly believes that it is essential for the mayor and local authorities to designate areas that are appropriate or inappropriate for tall buildings, based on thorough character appraisals, as part of a rational, plan-led approach to the location of tall buildings at a city-wide as well as a local level.'

CABE, an enthusiastic backer of the Minerva Tower - which will come before City of London planners early this year - welcomed EH's reversed position. In a statement, the commission said it hoped the move would mean the project gets the go-ahead. The tower will benefit the cluster of high-quality office buildings emerging in the east of the City, it said.

However, CABE added that a positive decision for the tower must not signal a skyscraper free-for-all.

Each must be considered on its own merits, it stressed.

CABE chief executive Jon Rouse said: 'Two years ago, EH supported the Swiss Re Tower by Lord Foster, and got that decision right. Today, it has decided not to oppose the Minerva building and we consider that time will show that it got that decision right as well.

'We welcome the balanced and reasoned approach that EH has taken in considering this case, and will also study carefully the wider points presented in its letter and statement, ' Rouse added.

lCABE and EH are currently preparing a joint statement on the City of London cluster as an addition to its guidance on tall buildings.

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