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Southwark leaves Ritchie fuming

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Ian Ritchie Architects' scheme for a 'cluster of mini-towers' on London's Potters' Fields drew a volley of criticism on Monday evening before being thrown out by Southwark council's planning committee.

The proposals were slammed by planners, local groups and conservationist bodies over a vast number of issues, from detailed design and historic context to a failure to meet 'Designing Out Crime' standards.

Ritchie has hit back at the decision, attacking failures in the way the council processed the application and promising to prove them wrong at appeal.

If the project does eventually go ahead it will involve the construction of a cluster of elliptical towers - ranging from 12 to 19 storeys - and the demolition of a Grade II-listed extension to Lambeth College.

In a savage report, Southwark's planners dismissed the architectural quality of the designs. The report said: 'it is considered that the towers would unsatisfactorily compete with the elaborate detailing of Tower Bridge, the sleek lines of the Greater London Authority building and to a lesser extent the Tower of London.

'The proposed development by reason of the composition of the cluster of towers and the height, use of materials and detailed design of the upper storeys is considered to be an overly powerful built form that is out of scale and character with the local built context.'

Committee chair David Hubber told Monday's meeting:

'This is the outstanding site in Europe and the architects have simply failed to come up with buildings that are good enough.'

Ian Ritchie dismissed the criticism. 'We have produced a powerful design, with a massive cultural complex, that works within the local context, but the planners do not seem to understand it, ' he told the AJ.

Ritchie said he was furious at the way Southwark - the RIBA and CABE's Local Authority of the Year 2002 - had processed the application. 'It is astonishing they even thought they understood the scheme because in two and a half years we were only granted two meetings, ' he added.

'I was also furious at the biased way planning officers presented their report to the council committee.'

However, Southwark was backed by a multitude of interested groups, including the City of London, local campaigners the Tooley Street Residents and Tenants Association, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the Green Party.

English Heritage, with the support of the Historic Royal Palaces, also attacked the impact the scheme would have on views from the Tower of London and various other 'important viewing corridors' in the capital.

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