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Benoy rejects CABE 'mall'fears

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Benoy has hit back at CABE after the watchdog labelled its new Peterborough retail development a 'standard American shopping mall'.

The regulator's Design Review Committee has questioned whether the proposed £250 million mixed-use regeneration scheme would improve the town's existing architecture.

Benoy is proposing a new covered shopping street linking the existing Queensgate and Northwestgate centres. It also wants to build a public square and extra shopping and leisure facilities. Plans would also see Queensgate extended and modernised, with the creation of a much-needed public transport hub, improved car parking and pedestrian and cycle routes all integral to the design.

But CABE has expressed scepticism over whether the scheme would translate into good architecture and public space. The committee's report said: 'We are disappointed that the design developed in the model seems to have too much the feel of a standard mall-style development, based on hermetic North American models now seen as undesirable.

'We think that the general aims and principles are commendable.

But, in general, the indicative built form does not give us confidence that the building outlines will result in successful architecture.' While the review praised plans for a new transport interchange and a tree-lined boulevard, it warned that the overall scheme was being driven by factors that could undermine the urban regeneration vision.

Defending the project, Benoy project director Simon Bee insisted it was too early to determine whether the project would create good architecture. 'We have a masterplan for Peterborough and the buildings will translate later on, ' he said. 'The typology follows our aspirations and CABE's goals. The commission has concerns that the scheme may follow an American model but this is not something we want either.' Bee admitted that the report was 'hard-hitting' but stressed that CABE's comments were constructive.

'CABE wishes these issues to be taken seriously. The comments are appropriate to the stage we are at and we are not making a planning application at this moment. We have been open with CABE and certain solutions are not as appropriate as others. The report is constructive in terms of our thought processes and level of analysis, ' Bee added.

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