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Mayor to back Ritchie as battle lines are drawn

Ken Livingstone has reacted with dismay to Southwark council's decision to reject Ian Ritchie Architects' proposals for a cluster of small towers on London's Potters' Fields.

The mayor's planning office - headed up by Giles Dolphin - said it was 'extremely disappointed' with the planning committee's decision to throw it out (AJ 4.9.03).

Livingstone is currently deciding whether he will simply submit written evidence supporting the scheme to the forthcoming public inquiry or whether he will go further and send representatives to give verbal support.

'Ken would have backed the project if Southwark had given it planning permission, ' Dolphin told the AJ. 'Not everyone has these strange views about the project.

'We weren't surprised about the decision because the council had already hinted at what the planning department thought of it, ' Dolphin said.

'We were surprised by its vehemence, though.'

If the project does eventually win the planning green light, it will involve the construction of a cluster of elliptical towers - ranging from 12 to 19 storeys - within view of Tower Bridge, the Greater London Authority headquarters and the Tower of London.

But Dolphin said Livingstone disagrees with Southwark's description of the scheme as impinging on important site lines, failing to reach design standards and disrupting the local historic context.

'This scheme is exemplary, ' he added. 'We are extremely disappointed that a project causing no harm to anyone could be refused in this way.'

CABE has also expressed frustration at the decision. It is understood that, while reticent to give verbal evidence, it will supply written evidence backing the project.

But Southwark's head of development control, Andrew Cook, defended the policy: 'There are strong disagreements about the quality of the architecture in this context. We believe it is the wrong building, with the wrong massing, in the wrong place.'

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