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Legal battle over Prescott ruling

The developer behind Foster and Partners' £100 million London City Racecourse (pictured) is gearing up for legal action against the government, after losing a public inquiry into the scheme.

Lawyers for the Wiggins Group believe there are good grounds for a judicial review after deputy prime minister John Prescott ruled against the scheme - overturning the advice of his planning inspector.

Prescott threw out the appeal from Wiggins against the London Borough of Redbridge's decision to refuse the scheme last year. Despite agreeing with most of the findings in the inspector's report, he went against the final conclusion to approve the scheme, ruling instead that the grandstand, and associated car parking, constitute 'inappropriate development' because of their large scale and the harmful impact on the openness of the Green Belt.

Wiggins chief executive Oliver Iny said he had been astonished by the decision. 'Everybody was so sure we'd get it. We already had fixtures from the horse racing board for 2004.'

And he said he understood he had a strong case and was determined to continue the fight to see the racecourse built on the site at Fairlop Waters in Ilford, Essex - despite offers from two other countries to provide a site for the scheme.

'I could have put it three months ago in the Middle East, but I want to do it in London, ' he said. 'It is such a spectacular piece of architecture. It's just so beautiful it's untrue. A building of this quality deserves to be in London. It's a grand projet.No-one seems to want to do grands projets anymore.'

'This is a serious project, not a catflap, ' he added. 'It's so sad that we wallow in mediocrity as a nation and that government encourages such mediocrity.'

The racecourse would have been Britain's first since 1927. Foster and Partners' scheme was an attempt to rethink the whole racecourse, and to create a logical layout of facilities such as stables and saddling boxes. The grandstand was designed to accommodate 10,000 spectators in the stand itself and 10,000 more on the rails, many of them under cover, adjacent to the finishing line.

Wiggins expects to find out by December or January whether it has a case.

Foster and Partners was unavailable to comment.

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