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Livingstone dismisses 'oppressive' plans for RHWL's Waterloo tower

London mayor Ken Livingstone has sunk RHWL's ambitious plans for a £250 million sail-shaped skyscraper beside Waterloo Station, dismissing the scheme as 'overbearing' and 'oppressive'.

A spokesman for the mayor told the AJ that Livingstone had deemed the proposal 'unacceptable in principle' and that he is minded to 'direct refusal of it if Lambeth council resolves to approve it'.

Earlier this year RHWL submitted a detailed application for a 33-storey sweep of glass and steel to house offices for shipowners P&O (AJ 11.3.04).

The design also includes a 10-storey residential building containing 71 flats, together with a new Underground interchange and station entrance. The existing Elizabeth House would be demolished. But Livingstone is determined that the Waterloo tower, in its current form, will not leave the drawing board.

The main stumbling block is a proposal to sweep away existing road and pedestrian traffic - including the realignment of York Road - outside the station.

In a letter to Lambeth explaining his decision, Livingstone ruled out altering York Road because such a step would be 'a disaster in urban design terms', both for motorists and for pedestrians. 'York Road is an obvious linear route linking Westminster and Waterloo bridges. It has clear sight lines and, with the new Shell building [by Arup Associates], will be defined by buildings on both sides. It is an intrinsically legible urban form in urban design terms, ' said Livingstone.

'The building will be overbearing and potentially oppressive in such a sensitive location. This consideration, with its bulky and inelegant form, leads to a conclusion that the building could not be revised to be acceptable and should be rejected, ' he added.

However, CABE - which is also opposed to the development because of the tower's design - believes there are distinct design advantages to be gained from the changes to York Road.

RHWL partner Geoff Mann said the mayor's current stance left the proposals with no future on the site, but vowed to continue to negotiate with both the GLA and Lambeth planners.

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