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Guarded Go Ahead For Potters Fields

John Prescott has given a guarded go ahead to one of the most controversial developments ever seen in London, a multiple tower plan by Berkeley Homes for Potters Fields. Potters Fields is a space of green land next to Tower Bridge and literally over the river from the Tower of London. The site is highly sensitive and has been the focus of a number of abortive proposals since the 1980s.

With soaring property values in London, Berkeley Homes decided in 2003 to take a risk and attempt a highly controversial residential development on the site with prize-winning architect Ian Ritchie on board.

Ritchie has designed a series of eight cylindrical towers nicknamed Daleks thanks to their techno styling and tapering sides, clearly attempting to get them to fit in with the nearby City Hall.

The cluster of towers ranges from 67 to 41 metres in height and 19 to 11 floors above ground. There is also a corner building of between 4 and 6 storeys bounded by Queen Elizabeth Street and Tower Bridge Road.

The project has been opposed by English Heritage who are concerned with the failure of the scheme to fit in with Tower Bridge which it stands literally next to. They also attacked the effect on viewing corridors stating that "four of these towers break through the development plane of the protected strategic viewing corridor of St Paul's Cathedral from Blackheath Point."

Meanwhile, many local residents have objected furiously outraged at the loss of green space that the development would entail preferring the option of a public park to a large residential development.

There has been little actual criticism of the design of the project itself which in isolation is considered to be a high quality piece of work, comments against the scheme have come from the issue that itís location has raised rather than the general quality of the architecture on show.

These have been particularly praised by the government quango, the Commission for Architecture and Built Environment who have welcomed the design as something "that can be admired as pieces of architecture, and that also offer a well-designed and functional living environment for their residents"

The architect and developer have attempted to address the concerns of loss of public space by having towers 4,5 and 6 linked together with public access at ground level and a similar method for towers 2 and 3. This has however failed to convince many locals who remain in opposition to what they perceive as the failure of the scheme to enrich public space.

With the failure to make it through the planning bodies at the local council, the Borough of Southwark who voted against it, the developer turned to an official appeal hoping that the Office for the Deputy Prime Minister would be more amenable to their plans - previously the ODPM has sided with developers of tall buildings every time they have ended up going to a public inquiry.

After months of evidence at an inquiry and the report having landed on his desk Prescott has announced, "he is minded to accept the Inspector's recommendation that the appeal be allowed and to grant planning permission for the proposed development subject to conditions."

There are of course conditions for this as with the previous tall building appeal in Lambeth. Again Prescott takes issue with the amount of affordable housing on offer on the site and has decided to defer planning permission for six weeks so this can be negotiated and commented on by all involved, effectively delaying a decision by six weeks.

Much of the report is however in favour of the development. The ODPM does not believe that the development will harm the historical context of the surrounding area and the buildings there but paradoxically fails to agree with the planning inspector that there would be no damage to the World Heritage Site, the Tower of London.

There is also special criticism reserved for English Heritage who the report accuses of failing to follow the proper procedural approach in the public inquiry, something that they have made the error of before.

Despite having deferred the decision for six weeks, it's likely that the project will be approved with a similar thing also occurring with regards to the public inquiry at St George's Wharf in Vauxhall earlier in 2005.

The big question on everyone's lips now will be just how will Berkeley Homes make the figures add up if they have to increase the amount of affordable housing whilst at the same time the construction costs have increased since the plans were originally floated back in 2003?

Crucially for the developer, a number of buildings in the project including the one that bounds Queen Elizabeth Street and Tower Bridge Road do not have their build quality stated as a condition of consent raising the spectre that Ritchie's admittedly high quality design faces being value engineered into mediocrity to allow a balancing of the books.

Article Related buildings:

Potters Fields Tower 1

Potters Fields Tower 1
Potters Fields Tower 2

Potters Fields Tower 2
Potters Fields Tower 3

Potters Fields Tower 3
Potters Fields London
Potters Fields London
Potters Fields London
Potters Fields London