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New viewpoint

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English Heritage continues to digest the implications of the Renzo Piano 'shard' planning inquiry decision - and the more it digests, the worse it gets. It wasn't a big talking point among the official speakers at the EH bash to launch its annual report in London's Brick Lane last week, but it was among the guests. Richard Coleman's wise words in last week's AJ, suggesting that the door is not even ajar in respect of a rash of tall building applications, have to be set against what some planning lawyers think.They note that the whole question of background views has been overturned compared with the inspector's findings in the Heron Tower appeal.There, he said it was important that there was a sky gap between the dome of St Paul's and the nearest commercial building. But, in fact, Renzo's tower is much nearer the dome in the relevant strategic view.This time round, the inspector says that government guidance is not designed to return the cathedral to its former preeminence in respect of strategic views, and that EH's opinion that St Paul's is being undermined by tall buildings is a 'purely historical stance'.The report, adopted wholeheartedly by the secretary of state, blows a big hole in the idea that tall buildings should be confined to the 'eastern cluster' in the City of London, and must give comfort to Minerva, British Land, Difa and various other developers with big stuff lined up. It looks as though St Paul's is now fair game.

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