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EH forces Geordie towers into planning 'purgatory'

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Three practices have accused English Heritage of 'negative' tactics after it persuaded Newcastle City Council to launch an environmental investigation into the effect of skyscrapers on the Tyne gorge.

Towers planned by Carey Jones Architects, Ryder and Stephenson/Bell are all now stranded in the planning process, awaiting the findings of an environmental assessment report.

Ryder director Peter Buchan said there is a lot of frustration that the council has given the investigation the green light. Buchan believes Newcastle had already carried out sufficient research into the impact of towers on the local landscape. 'Developers and architects alike thought the council would leave it at that. Instead they find their developments in purgatory, ' he said. Buchan said he believed it was Stephenson/Bell's proposed 30-storey skyscraper that 'set the cat among the pigeons'.

'English Heritage looked up north and realised that there was suddenly going to be a set of skyscrapers going up in Newcastle and decided that they had to do something, ' he said.

Buchan accused EH of having a 'negative attitude' to achieving anything instead 'of getting involved with useful dialogue between interested parties'.

Carey Jones Architects' Mike Harris, a project architect on the Tyneside scheme, agreed, saying the city council had already done enough research for its Tall Building Guidance document.

'It could certainly be seen as a little over the top that the council has agreed there ought to be yet another layer of checking into the effect the towers could have on the local environment, ' he said.

Carey Jones Architects' 400-apartment building is waiting in planning for the outcome of the report. 'Everyone seemed to be happy with this project until English Heritage arrived and demanded the investigation, 'Harris added.

George Wimpey City's chief executive Ronnie Baird, the man backing Bell's tower, warned there could be problems if the investigation takes too long. 'It is very important that the investigation is carried out in a timely fashion so that it does not delay the ongoing development process.'

However, EH defended its action. 'We have got the support of both Newcastle and Gateshead councils and the involvement of CABE, ' a spokesman said.

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