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'Dangerous' EH under fire at conservation conference

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Bristol architect George Ferguson has launched a virulent attack on English Heritage, branding the 'desperately dangerous' agency 'not at all equipped to deal with major development in historic areas'.

Speaking at the National Conservation Conference at the riba last week, Ferguson said he was having a 'blistering row' with eh chairman Sir Jocelyn Stevens about Crest Nicholson's proposed development at Canon's Marsh in Bristol, for which eh, which had earlier opposed the project, became the only supporting body (aj 18.3.99). The proposal, for which Arup Associates was the architect, has subsequently been withdrawn.

In an exchange of letters with Stevens, Ferguson says 'I am not impressed by the 'hundreds of major developments' with which eh has been involved when such a mess of our cities continues to be made in the name of progress.' Ferguson argues that 'it is extremely dangerous for eh to purport to be the leading authority on major urban design projects when it is insufficiently armed to do so'.

Stevens defended the record of eh, saying that it employs 'the expertise of all the professional disciplines in the region as well as high-grade property and legal advice from the centre.' He concludes his second letter to Ferguson, 'Since I have been informed that the application has been withdrawn, I don't propose to prolong this correspondence.'

Sir Bernard Feilden, a leading authority on conservation, said that eh had 'become a corporate organisation without a professional soul'. He carried out a peer review of its architectural side two to three years ago, and warned: 'eh will ignore architects at its peril. There is the danger of more Bristols. They need people with visual imagination.'

Ruth Slavid

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