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Sellar in 'fight to win' tower vow

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London Bridge Tower developer Irvine Sellar has put aside cash to fight a public inquiry if secretary of state Stephen Byers decides to call in Renzo Piano's skyscraper scheme.

Sellar told the AJ he was financially prepared for a costly legal battle and would not abandon the £350 million project.'That's our job as developers, to speculate with a view to winning, ' he said.

An inquiry into the 66-storey 'Shard of Glass' was looking likely as the AJ went to press, after Byers said he needed longer to consider the scheme. The secretary of state directed Southwark not to grant planning permission for the 306m tower last Wednesday, by issuing an article 14 holding directive.

If there is a call in, Sellar would need a substantial war chest since he could face legal fees running into millions. During last autumn's inquiry into the KPF-designed Heron Tower the developer Heron is believed to have spent around £4 million defending its scheme. A decision on the KPF scheme is due in the summer. A spokesperson for the DTLR denied that Byers' decision to delay was in any way connected to the Heron Tower inquiry.

Sellar also refuted suggestions that he planned to make a quick profit by selling on the land with a planning permission attached. 'It is totally without foundation, ' he said. 'I wouldn't consider doing that.We are committed to build it.'

And he added he had entirely expected Byers to take more time to reach his decision. 'I don't think he's stalling. The application will need a lot of consideration. There is a lot of information to digest because Southwark was so thorough.' And he added: 'I think he's had a lot to do recently.'

If it is ever built, the London Bridge Tower would be Europe's tallest. Sited above London Bridge Station, the mixed-use scheme will include residential and office space, a hotel and 10 storeys for use by the public. Southwark's planning committee said it was minded to approve the scheme on March 11. But English Heritage has been pushing for a call in on the grounds that the skyscraper will have a 'major detrimental impact' on the Tower of London and would harm protected views of St Paul's Cathedral.

London mayor Ken Livingstone last week reiterated his support for the tower and criticised the government's intervention. Livingstone has previously said that where he and the local authority agree, the government should not intervene.He said the tower encapsulated his vision for development in terms of both design quality and location, and that he would be pushing Southwark for legal guarantees that Piano's scheme will be the one completed.

Broadway Malyan director Peter Crossley, whose practice is working with Renzo Piano on the London Bridge Tower, said he believed Sellar would see the project through. 'This is one man's chance to take his place in history, ' he said.

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