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Heron 'paves way' for tall buildings

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The Corporation of London has hailed this week's victory for Kohn Pedersen Fox's 222m Heron Tower as a triumph for tall buildings. Deputy prime minister John Prescott ruled on Monday in favour of the controversial skyscraper planned for Bishopsgate in the City of London. His decision follows a costly legal battle fought out at a public inquiry last autumn.

The Corporation claimed the ruling paves the way for other tall buildings, including schemes by Helmut Jahn, Sheppard Robson and Richard Rogers Partnership. However, English Heritage, which led the opposition during the £10 million public inquiry, pledged to continue resisting plans it considers damaging.

The Corporation, which gave its support to Heron and continues to champion tall buildings in the Square Mile, said the ruling set an important precedent.

Dame Judith Mayhew, chairman of the policy and resources committee, said the 'sensible, pragmatic' decision was 'hugely significant' and would ease the way for future schemes. She said she expected up to five secret tower proposals to come forward, possibly within a matter of days.

'I am over the moon, ' she said. 'This is a really strong message to developers and funders that London is open for business.'

However, EH's regional director for London Philip Davies warned developers against 'reading too much' into the ruling. 'It does not set a precedent, ' he protested. 'It upholds the principle that tall buildings must be judged clearly and on the merits of the case and the heritage aspects concerned.' EH will not be disheartened by the loss, he said, but will continue to pursue its policy towards tall buildings as set out in its joint policy document with CABE. Davies added that a decision over Renzo Piano's 306m London Bridge Tower - expected later this week - will be much more significant.

Piano's tower is in abeyance following the decision by Stephen Byers, then secretary of state, to issue an article 14 holding directive. EH is opposing the plans.

Davies said he would be extremely surprised if Piano's 'shard of glass' was not called in for inquiry.

The planning inspector, however, criticised EH's 'inconsistency of approach' compared with how it judged Foster and Partners' Swiss Re building.

CABE welcomed the Heron decision, while Ken Livingstone's planning advisor Giles Dolphin said the ruling reinforced the mayor's powers to set the planning policy for the capital.

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