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Vauxhall faces towers row

The consequences of John Prescott's decision to overrule a planning inspector and back plans for Broadway Malyan's Vauxhall Tower are now emerging, the AJ can reveal.

Five skyscrapers by 'big-name' British architects are understood to be on the drawing board - proposed for sites close to the controversial 50-storey tower.

These vast proposals now look set to trigger a series of heated planning disputes over forthcoming months, with opposition from political heavyweights such as Tory grandee Kenneth Baker and local politicians, who are lining up to attack the plans.

Lambeth council and local surveyors have pointed to five sites close to Vauxhall Cross that developers have earmarked for high-rise residential schemes.

Squire and Partners is already working with London & Regional Properties on a 70,000m 2mixed-use scheme close by.

A consortium of developers, based off-shore, are working up plans for a tower on the site of Hampton House, on the Albert Embankment, which is currently occupied by the London Fire Brigade.

Plans for another 18-storey tower scheme by architects IDS Consultants at nearby 238-246 Albert Embankment have been recently submitted, and CLS Holdings, owner of another crucial site on the corner of Bondway and the Wandsworth Road, has confirmed that it has been in discussions with an architect about a skyscraper option for the area.

And CLS Holdings director Kevin Chapman claimed that there was at least one other

site being worked on in the close vicinity of Vauxhall Tower.

However, opposition to these massive schemes is already firming up. For example, former Conservative MP Baker warned the AJ of the potential of 'an appalling [London] skyscape', labelling Prescott's decision to back Broadway Malyan's tower 'totally ill-thought out and incoherent planning policy'.

'[Prescott] will have in posterity a great deal to answer for,' he added.

Baker has also won the support of Lambeth's influential Liberal Democrat executive councillor for planning Andrew Sawdon, who has damned the proposed schemes.

'[These developers] are working on the basis that there are no planning constraints,' Sawdon said. 'They are assuming that they've got a blank cheque.

'Put it this way - there's a debate about precedent in the inspector's report and I really don't think the secretary of state would take a different view on any other site in the UK,' Sawdon added.

The councillor has condemned the area as being at risk from an uncoordinated and incoherent 'Shanghai Effect' if steps are not taken to remedy the situation.

The government office 'minded to approve' the Broadway Malyan Vauxhall Tower scheme in March, provided that developer St George included a greater number of affordable residences in the 50-storey building. This decision overruled the recommendations of a planning inspector.

by Rob Sharp

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