Tuesday, March 13, 2007

A not very public inquiry

"The Walkie Talkie Tower at 20 Fenchurch Street has been given planning permission."

Boo. Hiss.

"But there is going to be a public inquiry..."


"...which has already started."


Yes, really. It started last Tuesday, which was news to me. This is humbling, not to mention embarrassing... but also worrying.

'Leading architects have sided with the government’s architecture watchdog in green-lighting proposals to build a 160-metre high skyscraper on the edge of the City of London.

The united parties squared off on Tuesday against English Heritage, for the start of a public inquiry into the ‘Walkie Talkie’, which Land Securities wants to build at 20 Fenchurch St.'
(Freelance UK website)
So it's English Heritage vs the rest. Which means it's as good as reapproved.

English Heritage have a history of opposing the construction of just about any tall building - recently demanding that they be given a veto on anything built between Waterloo Bridge and Canary Wharf (or something along those lines). Like a dedicated, come-all-ills pacifist's views on the rightness or wrongness of a particular war, their views can hardly be taken seriously - zealotry never should. So the only voice saying 'no' to its construction should, and probably will, be dismissed as unreasonable and regressive. They objected to the Gherkin, fer krissakes - one of London's best loved buildings from any era.

Which is frustrating, as they are far from the only group who are against its construction. Judging from online chatter the walkie talkie unites a lot of people in the worry that it will be a permanent blot on London's beautiful skyline. But there appears to be no route to voicing this view.

I searched many a time over the past few weeks on the London and Local Government websites for details of how to register opposition. I even checked English Heritage, and even they have no way of allowing members of the public to back them up.

Now, I know "public inquiry" doesn't mean "open to all comers to say their piece," but the only issue here is the conflict between the need for more office space and London residents' wish to have a nice view. I'm not going to launch into a Daily Mail-esque tirade demanding that disgruntled from Hackney be listened to, or even that there should have been wider consultation, as there doesn't exist (to the best of my knowledge) a body which represents Londoners' view on their own skyline (should the inquiry have conducted an on the street poll?)... but I just think it's a shame.

Only tonight I was sat in a pub on the South Bank with Karen, marvelling at the beautiful view. Adding a souped-up brick to it will be a malignant addition. The pub had a print of the view on its menus, which interestingly included a number of proposed projects. The Walkie Talkie was left off, and so it should be from the real thing.

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