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City appeals to Prescott over Foster's Swiss Re tower

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The City of London has urged John Prescott to resolve speedily planning permission for the Foster and Partners 'gherkin' tower in the City of London. Judith Mayhew, chair of the policy and resources committee, has written to the deputy prime minister following the government's delaying move to prevent the City granting the landmark tower planning permission (aj 2 March).

Prescott issued an Article 14 directive because the proposal did not include an explicit Environmental Impact Assessment, said to be required under eu law, and which might have triggered a judicial review of any planning permission following objections from the Baltic Exchange which formerly owned the site. The Baltic, which claims it is not piqued by new owners being given a bigger planning permission than anything it asked for, has stated explicitly that it is not interested in receiving a share in the profits made from any new development. But City observers do not believe it is interested in the architecture of its former hq, having lost all connection with it following the sale to Kvaerner and then Swiss Re.

The City is worried that third-party challenges to planning permissions could delay future schemes, and might affect schemes already given permission but not started. 'You can't imagine Frankfurt getting into this sort of mess,' said one source. Other concerned parties include the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, which fears that splitting up 'planning' from 'environmental impact' could lead to a tick-box approach to scheme analysis in which design is seen as an add-on, rather than as a holistic operation.

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