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Stop this Heron Tower nonsense and make a rational decision now

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Imagine, if you will, a 56,000 m2 high-rise, mixeduse, state-of-the-art building, located within walking distance of six Underground and three mainline stations in the City of London.

All the public transport infrastructure it will ever need was put in place years ago.

Why, it is obvious that a rail network like this could support a cluster of tall buildings as big as Canary Wharf - and this cluster would not have to struggle the way Canary Wharf did, waiting for years for the Jubilee Line extension to finally be opened, overdue and over budget.

This time around, it would be in the right place, with its infrastructure already paid for.

Because of its height, just one building in this position, on a site as small as 1,900m 2, could effortlessly carry 56,000m 2of offices, 1,340m 2 of retail space, a bar, a restaurant and 10 car parking spaces, and it could all be up and running in a couple of years.Why not get on with it?

Well, I am sorry to say that the reason is obvious. Despite not being in a conservation area, not infringing St Paul's heights or interfering with strategic views or monument views, you still might be able to see a bit of this building from Waterloo Bridge in the gap between Tower 42 and St Paul's. Oops! Sorry about that.

We shall have to put it somewhere else.

No problem.

Every opinion has a function as the saying goes, but in the chaotic jumble of opinions that is the big league of building procurement, it is becoming more and more difficult to say what that function is.

The ups and downs of the projected Heron building at 110 Bishopsgate is indeed the case in point.

Won by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates in competition in 1998, the designers of this building are still waiting for permission to build it three-and a-half years later. Right now, they are waiting for 23 October, the day scheduled for the opening of the public inquiry made necessary because the Secretary of State for the Environment 'called it in', a euphemism for 'holding it off ' for an unspecified period. For when the public inquiry is over the 'yesor-no?'question will still not be answered.

The protagonists will have to wait for six months or more for the inspector to write his report and deliver it to the secretary of state, who will then have to make up his own mind, or leave it on his desk while he waits for an opportune moment to finally grant or refuse permission to build.

Thus, a project conceived in 1998 cannot even begin to be built until the second half of 2002 at the earliest.

Meanwhile, opinions are being sharpened and indignation stoked up to volcano-heat in time for the inquiry, when a fabulous exhalation of criticism will take place, most of it at the muddle-headed 'tall buildings? - no thanks' level.

As a consequence, every attempt to explain what is good and valuable about this project will be obliged to start with a sermon on the advantages of high-rise advanced technology architecture in city centres, which will mostly not be listened to by the officers of advisory bodies who prefer to bring the whole matter down to what you can see from Waterloo Bridge.

A visitor from Mars arriving in London on a factfinding mission would be amazed to learn that the fate of an £300 million, advanced-technology building - one of the circuit boards of the global economy, designed to provide comfortable working conditions for 3,000 people, with computer and communications equipment capable of trading around the world in split seconds - was being decided in such an insultingly time-wasting and irrelevant fashion.

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