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Fosters hit by planning 'centralism gone mad'

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Two major schemes by Foster and Partners have been frozen by government planning chiefs in snap decisions condemned by the Government Office for London as 'centralism gone mad'. And, in an eventful week for the practice, a third project, for an edge-of-town retail scheme near Cambridge, has been refused completely.

Gargoyle Wharf, a proposal for shops, offices and flats on the Thames in Battersea has been stopped. This comes four weeks after nearby Albion Wharf, a 300-flat crescent between Battersea Bridge and Albert Bridge, again by Fosters, suffered the same fate. The Government Office for London served Article 14 notices which put plans on indefinite hold while ministers decide their fate.

However, the move angered Wandsworth planners, who had not even prepared planning papers or reports for the Gargoyle Wharf scheme. A council spokesman said: 'The gol has jumped the gun: there has been no report, no recommendation from the planning committee and we haven't even weighed up its merits. This is centralism gone mad.

'Planners are expected to deal with applications in eight weeks, yet they can take eight months or longer.'

He said: 'Everyone is worrying just how involved the new mayor will become with planning matters. Well, we are getting it before we even have a mayor. It does not say much for democracy.'

Even more emphatically, deputy prime minister Prescott has refused permission for a 30,000m2 Sainsbury's development outside Cambridge at Arbury Camp Farm. The decision, welcomed by the city council, follows a five-month public inquiry. An alternative 'Grand Arcade' scheme has been designed for the city centre by bdg McColl and a planning application will be made next March.

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