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Public inquiry for Westminster Bridge roundabout scheme

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Gensler's controversial Westminster Bridge roundabout development in south London is set to go to a public inquiry. The move follows the intervention of mayor Ken Livingstone and will provide a legal test of his planning powers.

Developer Frogmore has forced the inquiry after a series of knockbacks to its office scheme. The original 75,000m 2development comprised an eight-storey radial building on the island site with a five-storey link bridge across Addington Street to a 14-storey annex. The design, submitted for planning in May 2000, was refused by Lambeth Borough Council because of its potential impact on views of County Hall. In February, Lambeth was 'minded' to approve a revised design that lowered the 14-storey building to 12 storeys, but was directed to refuse by Livingstone on the grounds of bad design (AJ 22.2.01). The mayor objected to the separation of the scheme over two sites, favouring a single unified solution and a redesign of the existing road layout. And, criticising the standard of architectural design, he said it would 'adversely affect the setting of adjoining listed buildings'.

In a move designed to avoid the involvement of the mayor, Frogmore appealed about its original scheme and the matter went to secretary of state Stephen Byers, who upheld Lambeth's first decision. In his judgement, delivered on 28 September, he agreed that 'the proposal fails to either preserve or enhance the character or the appearance of the South Bank Conservation Area'.

But Frogmore has responded with a second appeal, this time over its revised scheme, and the matter will go to a public inquiry, expected to take place in February 2002.

Gensler was unable to comment.

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