A proposal by Westminster City Council to tighten planning controls in the borough has been lambasted by CABE as 'seriously flawed' and in danger of spawning a spate of 'mediocre' architecture.
CABE has pressed Westminster to withdraw the planning guide. Commission chief executive Jon Rouse urged the borough to realize its future, rather than tie itself to the past. 'This planning guidance is seriously flawed in its approach to design matters, its tone and in much of its detail.
Westminster is in danger of turning the borough into a museum piece, ' he said. 'We must accept the responsibility for creating the heritage of tomorrow, and that means the best new contemporary architecture should also be allowed to flourish.'
The planning guide, entitled Building in Westminster: supplementary planning guidance on creating good city architecture, was submitted for consultation late last month.
CABE's response to the guide says that councillors assumed Londoners lived in a debased architectural culture that had little hope of measuring up to the best of its heritage buildings. Its response highlighted the need for Westminster to include those buildings that were likely to be listed in 50 years' time: 'In our view, this document would make this task even harder and would result in even more mediocre designs being submitted.'
Westminster director of transport and planning Carl Powell said the council was 'mystified' by CABE's view as it failed to detail concerns in its response. Powell said the commission's comments were at the extreme negative end of the response spectrum, adding that some respondents had supported the proposal.