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TOWERING THUMBS-UP

NEWS

The Planning Inquiry report into Ian Ritchie Architects' highly contentious scheme for the Potters' Field site next to Tower Bridge has recommended approval, the AJ has learnt.

The top-secret document - which is currently sitting on John Prescott's desk - urges the deputy prime minister to approve the scheme, made up of a cluster of 'mini towers' on the south bank of the Thames.

The news will please both Ritchie and developer Barclay Homes, who have invested massive amounts of time and money in the project.

However, the inspector's report is no guarantee of success for the scheme. Prescott rarely rejects an inquiry recommendation but earlier this year he gave the green light to Broadway Malyan's Vauxhall Tower despite an inspector urging that it should be knocked back.

If the scheme does win the go ahead, it will see the construction of one of the largest residential projects on the Thames. It will also have a significant mixed-use element with other cultural, community and commercial elements.

Ritchie has long argued that the family of 'thin, tapered 18-storey towers' would be completely sympathetic to the Shad Thames area of the capital.

Information that the inspector has come down on Ritchie's side will please CABE, which has actively supported the project in the past, but will devastate a host of conservationists that have campaigned to have the towers thrown out.

Among the detractors was English Heritage, which argued at the inquiry that the project would seriously damage the setting of both Tower Bridge and St Paul's Cathedral.

But perhaps the most passionate opposition to the scheme has come from within the local authority, Southwark council, which rejected the designs two years ago at planning committee (AJ 04.09.03).

In a savage report, the council's planners dismissed the scheme. 'It is considered that the towers would unnecessarily compete with the elaborate detailing of Tower Bridge, the sleek lines of the Greater London Assembly and, to a lesser extent, the Tower of London, ' the report said.

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