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Computer model on the way to set London skyline limits

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English Heritage skyscraper supremo Philip Davies is to recommend to London mayor Ken Livingstone that he should include a computergenerated model of acceptable heights for tall buildings in the final version of the London Plan.

Davies, the conservation agency's London region director, told the AJ this week that he feels the ideal way through a plethora of emerging guidance on the subject is to take advantage of new technology and come up with a computer-based guide, specifically to the contentious, heritageaffected north-east corner of the City of London.

'What we want to be able to do with the mayor and his staff is look at specific sites in the north-east corner to see the potential impacts on the views of St Paul's from Westminster Bridge and Somerset House terrace, ' said Davies. 'It may be that a building of 35 storeys is not possible but one of 25 is - that's the degree of modelling required. It will be most effective if we can do it in computer modelling and we'll try to persuade the Greater London Authority to do it as part of the London Plan.'

Livingstone has commissioned EH to look into the City area to evaluate guidelines about acceptable heights and other issues for prospective developments in the light of the Heron Tower affair.A row blew up after EH attacked KPF's plans for the 'unexceptional' £300 million, 222m tower for the Bishopsgate site.A major public inquiry for the proposal will take place on 23 October.

Davies was speaking to the AJ in response to a flurry of what he branded 'hysterical' press comments expressed in the light of the AJ's 'Tall Storeys?'

conference. He stressed that EH is 'not against tall buildings per se', and supported Foster and Partners' new 41-storey tower for Swiss Re, as well as adventurous architecture in the shape of Libeskind's Spiral at the V&A. But he maintained there is no 'black and white' evidence to support an economic need for tall buildings. EH is adamant that London's 'special' character must be maintained in the face of the 'transient fashion' for towers.

The EH analysis of the City sites will happen in tandem with a further look at major London rail termini, areas Livingstone has already pinpointed as having the potential to support towers. EH will be looking mostly at Paddington and King's Cross.

The analysis will form part of Livingstone's draft London Plan, formerly called the Spatial Development Strategy, when it comes out next year.

Other guides on the subject are also due. EH is working on a national guidance document with CABE, which will be published on 12 June. That will set criteria against which tall buildings should be assessed, including their impact on the historic environment. EH is also working on a joint 'protocol' with Livingstone's GLA staff on tall buildings to fill the void before the London Plan is agreed.

Specific to the capital, that guidance will emerge around two weeks later, at the end of this month.

'We're keen to work with the London mayor to make sure that London's historic environment is given proper weight, ' said Davies. 'We don't want to kill the golden goose by allowing ill-judged developments.'

EH will also shortly judge Renzo Piano's £350 million, 306m London Bridge Tower, which Davies said will affect two protected views of St Paul's as well as the Tower of London World Heritage Site. But he added that his organisation was likely to approve two Terry Farrell-designed towers at Lots Road in Chelsea. The pre-application proposal is understood to be ready for submission by Taylor Woodrow later this month.

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