CABE and English Heritage are set for another high-profile confrontation over Ian Ritchie Architects' controversial plans for Potters' Fields in London's Southwark.
CABE's design review committee last week gave its enthusiastic support for the cluster of towers. The commission said the scheme promised to be 'high quality, striking and innovative'. And it disputed claims by opponents of the project that it would compromise the nearby Grade I-listed Tower Bridge.
'We believe this scheme represents a strong and distinctive response to the site conditions, while taking appropriate cues from the character of nearby buildings and the urban grain of surrounding areas, ' it said in its report.
'The form of the tapering towers and their general massing works well with Tower Bridge [in views from the north and south banks of the Thames], and the development would certainly be a no more intrusive presence than City Hall and the More London Bridge development.'
CABE's praise for the project follows condemnation from EH.
In its first public statement on the towers last month, the heritage body claimed the cluster would have a detrimental effect on the Tower of London World Heritage Site. 'The proposed towers do not provide the sensitive, contextual approach required for this site, ' it said.
'They would be unacceptably obtrusive to the setting of the Tower of London World Heritage Site, the Grade-I listed Tower Bridge, the Grade II-listed Lambeth College and would also intrude into the strategic views of St Paul's from Blackheath.'
Southwark is due to consider the scheme next month. If planning approval is granted, it seems likely that EH will call for a planning inquiry that would see it pitted against CABE.
In its report, CABE stressed that developer Berkeley Homes must retain the present design team through to detailed design, if the scheme is to achieve the necessary quality.
lCABE has welcomed improvements to Michael Aukett's plans for Croydon Gateway. It said the scheme was a 'strong and coherent proposition in terms both of architecture and urban design', and it welcomed the principle of tall buildings on the site. However, it called for more work to be done to make the towers 'wholly convincing'.
The design review committee also considered progress on Peabody Trust's Kings Crescent Estate in north London by Jestico + Whiles and Stock Woolstencroft. It gave the scheme its broad support and welcomed the 'refreshing approach' to the design process, but called for further work on the detailed design of the towers. It also reiterated its support for Michael Hopkins and Partners' masterplan for Bury St Edmunds town centre.