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Southwark MP calls for inquiry into Foster's GLA

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Simon Hughes, the Southwark mp and prospective Liberal Democrat leader, has called for a public inquiry over the winning Greater London Authority building by Foster and Partners.

Hughes greeted the 'bold' scheme as a 'brilliant boost for Bermondsey', but questioned whether it should not be called in for its impact on the riverside setting, as other schemes like Will Alsop's housing project and Ian Ritchie's temporary opera house had been. 'In theory it should be,' he told the aj; 'the logic is that it will.' He added that the really controversial elements were mostly to do with Southwark's move to private developments at the expense of social housing (aj 25.2.99).

Speaking to the aj at the launch of the scheme, London minister Nick Raynsford defended his decision to go with Foster and Partners' 'considerably cheaper' London Bridge City scheme, rather than the Victoria House scheme by Will Alsop, as a 'model' procurement process in line with the Egan report. Although the decision ignored the views of the advisory committee, 'helpful' elements of the process included the design workshops and the close integration of the design and procurement process. Although not all government projects will be procured in the same way, it is intended to run the gla project like the Millennium Dome - on time and to budget, he said.

Raynsford described the winning proposal as a 'magnificent design', but commended Alsop's as 'imaginative, extremely impressive and a very worthy response'. Raynsford told the aj that the mayor will pay an annual rent to the developer and the government will contribute £20 million to the building's fit-out costs. degw is understood to be on the shortlist to carry out the interior work. The government wants the building ready before the end of 2001 and is investigating a temporary location for the mayor, believed to be in the Marsham Street area.

The developer, cit Markborough, estimates the cost of the building to be £35 million. md Kevin McGovern told the aj that the company plans to have the whole 200,000m2 London Bridge City scheme, masterplanned by Foster and Partners, built within five years. Currently in for detailed planning permission with Southwark Borough Council, the plan includes nine separate buildings, of which the gla is the first. The site has been empty for 12 years and total development costs would approach £1 billion. McGovern expects large companies with an interest in lettings - three major firms are on board already, predominantly from the financial sector - to appoint their own architects. The buildings, ranging in size from 3500m2 to 75,000m2, include leisure facilities and a 180-bed, four-star, eight-storey hotel. 'The masterplan is not a contentious issue,' said McGovern. 'It's a light, bright, modern treatment.'

The gla building will provide 18,500m2 over ten levels, between a new square opening on to the riverfront lined with cafes and restaurants, and Potter's Fields Park, which will be re-landscaped. Four of the floors are for the public, including a flexible public space for exhibitions and banquets known as 'London's Living Room', and a public roof terrace. The building's elliptical shape is designed to maximise transparency and minimise solar gain.

Foster said the practice had rethought a moat feature and had set the building back from the river. The building has also been reduced in height and is to be 'twisted' to face the city at an angle to the river frontage. 'It will have extraordinary views. It's a one-off, and it might be the first truly green building in the capital,' he said, referring to the planned use of solar panels and the burning of vegetable oil for fuel.

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