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Baltic Exchange behind SAVE's Swiss Re challenge

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The Baltic Exchange has revealed that it provided the cash support for SAVE Britain's Heritage's legal challenge of deputy prime minister John Prescott's behaviour over the Swiss Re's Foster and Partners-designed City tower (AJ 28.9.00) .

Exchange chief executive Jim Buckley told the AJ that his board of directors and the Exchange's members recognised important issues 'of principle' in the case and welcomed the legal challenge: 'The proper way for us to deal with this is to ensure that SAVE has got enough funds so we'll match what they raise, pound for pound.'

SAVE sought leave to apply for a judicial review of Prescott's decision to evade a public inquiry over the £150 million, 180m tall Foster 'gherkin' tower last Friday - as revealed in the AJ last week. SAVE estimates that this will initially cost around £6,000, although a closer estimate, said Buckley, might be £20,000. 'If they can raise £6,000, I'll provide the other £14,000' Buckley said.

SAVE secretary Richard Pollard said the tower proposal for the Grade II*-listed former Baltic Exchange site, bombed by the IRA in 1992, had major implications for London's skyline.'The City's planning officer, the conservation specialists who oversaw the dismantling of the building in 1996 and even the applicant all agree that it would be possible to restore the Baltic Exchange Hall.'

SAVE argues that the case met all the criteria for a call in - conflicting with national policy with effects beyond its immediate locality and raising key design issues.

Currently the remnants of the former Exchange - complete polished granite columns from the facade, marble and Portland Stone features, are lying in a large warehouse at Horndon Industrial Park in Essex. James Thomas of Rothermel Thomas, who compiled a report into the possible reconstruction of the building for the Baltic Exchange said the cost of the operation of carefully cataloguing and storing the artefacts has already been £4 million.The Grade II*-listed material is owned by a trust set up including the Corporation of London and Kvaerner.

'In my view the damaged parts could be put together and it would be a legitimate conservation operation.My concern about the replacement is its effect on other listed buildings nearby and on conservation areas. It's very unsatisfactory in urban design terms and the terrible thing is the precedent it sets for other buildings. It's like Mappin & Webb, except it's worse - a II* building not Grade II.'

Both SAVE and the Exchange were waiting to hear if their quest with the High Court judges had been successful as the AJ went to press.

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