What a curious business, the sudden announcement by the chief executive of English Heritage, Pam Alexander, that she is to leave the organisation in September. The ostensible reason for her departure, that she has no desire to undertake yet another reorganisation of EH, is no doubt fully understandable. But some cynics, especially those who do not believe in coincidences, question whether this is the full story. Alexander herself has usually been regarded as being sure-footed in her management style. However, there seem to have been some slip-ups recently which have left EH looking less than sensible. Take the launch of the joint tall buildings policy with CABE. All appeared to be sweetness and light, even where the organisations knew they might disagree (eg over the Heron Tower). The main thing was to speak the same language, and discuss problems openly. The very next day, EH launched a press release containing details of a Mori poll which could be read as an attack on the idea of tall buildings anywhere. Not only that, but a crude shock-horror mock-up of what London could look like was released to a fairly sceptical press. An official press release delivered at the AJ 'Tall Storeys?' conference seemed highly antagonistic to high buildings (again). Then came a little bombshell in the Estates Gazette . EH commissioners are opposing the Heron Tower, but the organisation's London Advisory Committee actually supported it. Were the commissioners fully aware of the views of the London committee?
Why did the first minutes of the London committee say it was opposed to the scheme, only to be revised later? No doubt Gerald Ronson's lawyers will be crawling all over this one before the appeal, now set for November.
Will the (by then) departed chief executive be giving evidence?