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Prescott out on a limb in Vauxhall

John Prescott has overruled the advice of a planning inspector and has decided to throw his weight behind Broadway Malyan's Vauxhall Tower in south London.

The ODPM has announced that it is considering approving the 50-storey residential development at Vauxhall Cross in Lambeth.

It expressed support for plans for developer St George, provided more affordable housing is incorporated into the design of the tower.

This decision ignores the inspector's concerns that the development would negate an important view of the Palace of Westminster.

The move comes after a public inquiry, which concluded in July 2004, forced by St George following Lambeth council's failure to reach a decision on the project within the target timescale.

The developer now has six weeks, until 12 May, to respond to the ODPM's concerns, after which time local and central government will both reconsider the scheme in turn.

In a decision letter last week, Anna Macintyre from the ODPM said the government agreed with the planning inspector's view that the proposed tower would act as a further distraction from the view of the World Heritage Site at Westminster.

However, on balance, she said Prescott's office felt that the tower's benefits, such as its good design and efficient use of energy, were sufficient to overrule the inspector's concerns.

Macintyre wrote: 'The secretary of state concludes that the proposed tower is part of a cluster and does meet the criteria for good design of tall buildings as set out in PPS 1 and English Heritage/CABE guidance.

'He does not consider that any other test of its design is justified in policy terms. He considers the proposal's first-class design quality, and its energy efficiency, to weigh heavily in favour of the proposal.' In response, St George managing director Tony Carey said:

'Vauxhall Tower is clearly recognised to be of 'first-class' design and highly energy-efficient, which will help transform perceptions of the area and act as a catalyst for further regeneration at a key transport interchange.

'We believe Vauxhall Tower will create a stunning landmark that will take its place among the skyline of London, ' Carey added.

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