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Opposing views

ASTRAGAL

Has Richard Rogers really fallen out with CABE over Renzo Piano's London Bridge Tower proposal, as some excitable scribes seem to think?

Well, yes and no. It is certainly the case that he supported the tower 110 per cent at the inquiry, describing it as one of the greatest designs he had ever seen. And it is true that he applied pressure to CABE to drop its opposition to aspects of the scheme. On the other hand, as my old friend Paul Finch made clear during a two-and-a-half hour cross-examination at the inquiry by counsel for both English Heritage and developer Irvine Sellar, CABE also supports the scheme in terms of location, design and height. Finch recalled a visit by CABE commissioners to the Tower of London to see what impact the LBT might have on the World Heritage site. 'We spoke to a senior beefeater who said he could not see what all the fuss was about.We regarded a beefeater as a significant stakeholder' (laughter). He disputed the EH claim that important views would be ruined, and suggested that visits to view the panorama from, say Primrose Hill, could be meaningless, since it involved imagining what the impact would be without being able to test that opinion. The inspector thought a visit could be useful armed with visualisations, which Finch accepted. But even though CABE would give the tower seven or eight out of 10 as a design, its less-than-complete support had therefore made it a technical objector, because some vital public realm work that has been undertaken by Piano has not been included in the inquiry application. Curious fact: there is no planning inquiry rule which says you have to be a supporter or objector - it is the lawyers who like to keep things black and white.

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