Serious doubt has been cast over Frank Gehry's contentious plans for Hove this week after a senior council official admitted she 'didn't know where the application is going'.
Speaking in the light of fresh criticism of the King Alfred development from both CABE and English Heritage, Brighton and Hove's development control chief Maggie Brian admitted the scheme's future was uncertain.
This is the first time planners have waded into the row over the designs. Up until now the council has backed the project in its position as landowner of the site.
'The council as a landowner is happy to go along with the scheme in principle,' Brian told the AJ. 'But now
I don't know where the application is going.'
The comments come after an appalling week for Gehry's first commercial scheme in the UK. Problems on the project are understood to be seriously trying his patience.
In recent days the proposal, dubbed 'Tin Can Towers' by locals, has come in for a battering from both CABE and English Heritage (EH).
CABE hit out at the scheme in correspondence released in the past few days, claiming the project had not 'realised its potential'.
In a letter dated 21 April, CABE director of architecture and design review Selina Mason claimed that in looking at recently submitted images of the project, she was struck by 'how banal [CABE] would find this scheme if it were not for the towers.'
She added: 'We continue to believe that the public spaces are ill considered.'
And EH's concern continues to be the project's 'perimeter blocks and public-realm aspects', which it reaffirmed in a letter dated
21 April. EH Historic Areas Adviser for the South East Graham Steaggles said recent amendments were not enough.
These comments are understood to have hit Gehry hard. Project adviser Piers Gough, a long-term friend of Gehry, panned CABE's 'curmudgeonly peer review attitude' to Gehry's concept.
He added that the American superstar 'might think twice about taking up another offer of building in Britain'.
But the developer, Karis, insists the vast project remains on track. Managing director Josh Arghiros said he remained 'absolutely confident' that the design philosophy for King Alfred was robust.
He also insisted that the scheme fulfilled the 'stringent development and design brief set by Brighton and Hove Council'.
In a seperate development this week, it also emerged that a group of local campaigners are taking the Hove local plan to a judicial review at the High Court. If the group wins this battle it will throw another spanner in the works for Gehry's plans. by Rob Sharp