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Livingstone in 'exceptional' U-turn over City Academy

London mayor Ken Livingstone has backed down over his decision to block the controversial £22 million City Academy in Southwark.

Livingstone had previously directed Southwark council to refuse the Corporation of London school project because it was sited on one of the borough's few green spaces - Paterson Park. However, he has agreed to let the project go ahead despite it breaking his own planning policy because of the borough's dire need of school places.

Amendments to the scheme have been agreed which will result in a minor increase in parkland on the City Academy's site and the development of two local green spaces. However, this will still result in a loss of 0.3ha of parkland for the borough.

Livingstone said he would 'treat the project as an exceptional case', but would insist that Southwark and the Corporation commit to funding the maintenance of the new parks.

The Corporation 'generally welcomed' the move while Southwark council leader Stephanie Elsy added: 'There was simply no alternative. I am absolutely delighted that Ken has now changed his mind.'

The mayor was forced to concede after the site his planning officers had selected as an alternative location for the 1,200-pupil school proved to be too small. The suggested site in Canada Water also did not meet the requirements of the Department for Education and Skills.

Studio E Architects won the commission to design the building (AJ 14.3.02) beating off competition from Foster and Partners, Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners and Jestico + Whiles.

Andrzej Kuszell, director of Studio E, said: 'The site inspires by its challenges. Southwark deserves something special and we are keen to make a start.'

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