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Tower inquiry holds key to cluster of tall buildings

Broadway Malyan is gearing up for a public inquiry into its Vauxhall Tower scheme that, if successful, could pave the way for a cluster of skyscrapers being drawn up for the south London site.

The inquiry - being forced by developer St George following Lambeth's failure to reach a decision within the target timescale - is being seen as a test case for tall buildings in the borough.

And the war of words surrounding Broadway Malyan's controversial scheme has stepped up with Lambeth accusing the developer behind the 50-storey residential tower of attempting to sideline local democracy.

The contested skyscraper has gone through a series of redesigns. Lambeth's 16-week deadline for it to decide on the latest version of the scheme passed last week and St George has requested a public inquiry on the basis of non-determination.

Tony Carey of St George claimed the move was merely a timesaving strategy, should local planners eventually decide against the scheme.But Andrew Sawdon, Lambeth's executive member for regeneration and planning, told the AJ he believed it was an attempt to 'go over the head' of the local authority, whose UDP is hostile to tall buildings along the river.

St George had entered into negotiations with the GLA and revised its scheme in response to criticisms from CABE and EH, rather than entering into discussions with Lambeth, he said. 'It is like I go to Mum and ask for half a crown and she says no so I go to Dad and ask for half a crown, 'Sawdon said.

A green light for the tower could set a precedent for tall buildings at Vauxhall Cross - the proposed site for one of Ken Livingstone's tower clusters, as set out in the London Plan. Livingstone himself has thrown his weight behind the scheme, warning Lambeth that if it refused planning permission for the project it would face the consequences (AJ 29.5.03).

And Terry Osborne - acting for an alliance of six developers with an interest in Vauxhall - confirmed the inquiry would serve as a test case for tall buildings.

Sawdon, however, said that Lambeth would resist the cluster:

'We don't want to be an escape valve for excess development pressure in central London.'

Carey insisted he remained in ongoing discussions with Lambeth.

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