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Ian Simpson Architects looks to have been dropped by the developer behind the controversial and muchtroubled Brunswick Quay skyscraper scheme in Liverpool.

After nearly four years of delays and repeated knockbacks, Maro Developments appears to have decided to call it a day and scrap Simpson's ambitious 51-storey waterfront proposal (pictured).

It is believed that communities minister Ruth Kelly's shock decision to turn down the development in November - a move which ew in the face of the planning inspectorate recommendation to approve the £120 million project (AJ 23.11.06) - was the final nail in the coffin.

Sources close to the developer originally believed that Maro would launch an appeal against Kelly's verdict or that Simpson would be given a chance to come up with a third scheme for the site. Both of his practice's previous attempts were controversially rejected by Liverpool City Council's planning committee and ended in public enquiry.

However, it now appears that Maro is hunting for a new architect to take the development forward. It is understood that at least one practice has already been contacted and an insider admitted the developer was 'engaged in a search' for a suitable design team.

Liverpool City Council said that it has been in talks with Maro about the future of the plot, but has yet to receive a new planning application.

It is believed that council bosses suggested a fresh design competition should be considered.

Exact details of why Maro decided to reconsider Simpson's position are still unclear, but the developer will no doubt be hoping that any replacement architect will be able to forge better links with the city's planners.

In 2004, an increasingly exasperated Simpson launched a blistering tirade at the council for continually stalling over the future of the 166m-tall project (AJ 21.10.04). Simpson claimed that the council was 'sticking its head in the sand' over the development and was unwilling to enter into constructive dialogue regarding the way forward.

Speaking about his possible replacement, Ian Simpson admitted that the move had not really come as a surprise.

He said: 'Maro is after someone to produce a much lower, non-iconic, lower-density scheme and is probably going to a local architect to deliver that.

'If Maro is after doing fimore of the samefl and is not particularly ambitious then I would not be particularly interested in being involved.

For Maro it is probably the right decision - it wants to appease the planners and get permission.'

He added: 'Our scheme was right for the site and if [John] Prescott had still been there I think we would probably have been more successful.

'I think it is a great loss for the city of Liverpool, ' he said. 'Cities which stay away from being bold risk ending up being very second rate and filled with dross.'

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