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Firebrand Roche slams London borough's design guide

Militant London architect Chris Roche has branded Islington's draft Urban Design Guide 'draconian' and claimed it will shackle creativity and innovation.

Roche also believes a proposed scheme by his practice 11.04 Architects, which was recently rejected by the north London borough's planners, has become one of the guide's earliest victims - even though the document has not yet been fully adopted.

He said: 'This design guide is symptomatic of a much bigger problem, where councils are introducing draconian measures which make the architect's job impossible.

'It would be unimaginable for writers to be told they could not use certain words, or sentences of certain lengths, or refer to subject matter which is deemed too modern for the public taste.'

Roche is also unhappy that the document, which is currently out for consultation, has been drawn up by non-architects.

And, in a further outburst, the former RIBA councillor has hit out at RIBA top brass for 'sitting on their hands' and failing to step in to protect the profession from the potentially 'stifling' rules.

Roche says he has written to both current president Jack Pringle and incoming boss Sunand Prasad about the guide, but without success.

However, a spokesman for Islington has hit back, saying that the document is not intended to be a design straitjacket.

The spokesman said: 'The guidance is written in terms of standards and principles, and is nearly always caveated by words such as 'normally' or 'usually' to specifically avoid being too prescriptive while also ensuring that the guidance has enough 'teeth'.

'The guidance also needs to complement existing unitary development plan policies - new development therefore needs to respect the form, scale and grain of the surrounding townscape- nevertheless it supports high-quality contemporary architecture and design.'

by Richard Waite

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