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CABE and EH consensus on tall buildings showing strain

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Cracks are already starting to show in the carefully crafted partnership between CABE and English Heritage over tall buildings.

Last week, the two quangos launched a joint consultation paper in which both committed themselves to supporting tall buildings provided they were of good quality and in the right location (AJ 14.6.01). But the conservation body has since launched initiatives that have undermined both the message and its own relationship with CABE.

'CABE remains absolutely committed to the relationship, ' said chief executive Jon Rouse. 'But a relationship has to be built on trust. If one party keeps information from the other it's inevitable that that trust will be damaged.'

Just a day after the Guidance on Tall Buildings document was launched, EH announced the results of a MORI survey offering 'hard evidence' that the public did not wish to see more tall buildings in London. The report was accompanied by alarmist illustrations showing how the capital's skyline might look in 2010. The collage included Foster & Partners' 385m Millennium Tower, withdrawn after pressure from EH three years ago.

CABE had been unaware of the survey and was further irritated by the appearance of an article in the Independent in which EH chief executive Pam Alexander wrote that Londoners should not be seduced by the 'Manhattan factor'.

Rouse said these actions had been 'noted by senior figures' who were equally critical of the way English Heritage had attempted to hijack the debate, adding that 'CABE will continue to behave in a grown-up fashion'.

EH regional director for London Philip Davies was unrepentant. 'We're trying to stimulate a much wider debate among the general public, ' he said. 'We want to know what the public thinks. I don't believe there is a problem with that.'

Speaking at an Architecture Foundation event last week, Davies said the conservation body was not anti-tall buildings and confirmed the towers proposed by Sir Terry Farrell for the Lots Road power station should 'be acceptable to us in principle'.

But he challenged mayor Ken Livingstone's idea that tall buildings should be clustered around transport interchanges and said that the economic case that the capital needed further towers to maintain its financial strength had yet to be proven.

At the same event, London deputy mayor Nicky Gavron said she was impressed by the 'sculptural quality of clusters of tall buildings', adding that Renzo Piano's proposal for a 306m tower at London Bridge could act as a 'punctuation mark' to nearby St Paul's Cathedral.

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