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Mayoral hopefuls savage Foster's GLA building plans

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The candidates for London mayor last week again tore into Foster and Partners' plans for the new Greater London Assembly building, with just more than a month to go until polling.

Ken Livingstone warned he would abandon the glass bubble assembly if the building does not prove to be the 'best financial deal' on offer. Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer slated the design as 'grandiose' and 'exclusive' and Conservative Steven Norris said the government had chosen 'the right site, wrong building.'

The £65 million building on the south side of London Bridge has already started on site, but none of the candidates speaking in a debate last week are happy with the scheme.

Trevor Phillips, representing Frank Dobson, offered tepid support: 'We are going to have to use it,' he said. 'I love the location as it will help tilt the balance of the city from north to south, but the shape of the building, we can discuss.' Kramer and Livingstone were both concerned that the plans could give the new authority a high-spending, arrogant image.

The Foster scheme was chosen above Alsop & Stormer's design for the conversion of Victoria House in Bloomsbury Square. Two-thirds of the public polled during consultations backed the Foster plan. And the new mayor may be forced to use the building. In February, the government signed an agreement with developer cit Group for a 25-year lease, at £4.75 million annually, fixed for seven years. cit will pay for the building's construction while the government will meet the cost of the fit out.

'This has the potential to be a great building, but none of us has seen the financial documentation,' Livingstone said. 'I will only go on with the project on the basis of it being the best financial deal. If not, we will look elsewhere - cost will be the main factor.'

Kramer added: 'I have strong objections to the building. I hate that it's grandiose and that it's exclusive because it says that we're great before we have proved it. I'd much rather have seen the assembly in an old building.'

Another Foster's project, World Squares for All received unanimous support in principle. But Norris, Kramer and Livingstone each warned that a major revamp of traffic policy in London must come first. Both the architects and Westminster City Council, which has reservations about the project, are waiting for the new mayor before pressing ahead with the project (aj 30.3.00).

Livingstone also called for a new generation of 'graceful' tall buildings', and dubbed Canary Wharf 'a ghastly slab'.

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