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Westminster plan rules skyscrapers 'unacceptable'

Westminster City Council has declared that it does not want to see tall buildings in the borough.And it has asked architects to come forward with plans for lower replacements for existing eyesore towers which it considers do not make a positive contribution to the skyline.

The council's director of planning Carl Powell said last week that the historic nature and high architectural quality of the borough's stock of buildings meant that the area 'did not lend itself to declaring a skyscraper zone'. Powell said Westminster had chosen to accept advice from EDAW on tall buildings - tall in the council's definition is anything higher than 30m - and resist the London Planning Advisory Committee's 1999 advice to create a special designated zone where they might be clustered. EDAW said there was 'no reason to revise radically the City Council's restrictive approach' to high buildings.

A special section of the borough's new Unitary Development Plan, set to be unveiled to the public on Tuesday night, makes it clear that Westminster 'is an unacceptable location for tall buildings' and they are not in keeping with much of its 'established scale and character'.They 'disrupt' the skyline, 'intrude' upon 'cherished views' and present functional problems, ' says the chapter on urban design.

But Graham King, head of the council's Paddington Group, said the 40 storey-plus schemes by Richard Rogers Partnership for Paddington Basin and Nicholas Grimshaw above the station were submitted as 'exceptional' cases - the council remains open to evaluating tall building applications on their own merits but with 'stringent' tests on their 'positive contribution'.

The council also designated the Albert Hall and Imperial College an 'arts, culture and entertainment' special policy area.

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