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LONDON-Mayor Ken Livingstone, is set to lock horns with the Government’s conservation watchdog, English Heritage, over tower blocks in central London. Livingstone believes that, in order tomaintain London’s reputation as a centre for business and commerce moreskyscrapers are needed.

However, English Heritage says the towers are not always economicallyjustified and has published a list of guidelines suggesting appropriatelocations for the next generation of skyscrapers. Sir Neil Cossons, chairmanof English heritage, says: ‘If you look at the tall buildings we inheritedfrom the 1970s, it isn’t a very enticing prospect. If we are going to havethem, let’s make sure we do better than last time.’

Many of the eyesorebuildings from the 1970s have been demolished to make way for offices withlarger floor areas, which many of today’s global organisations demand.Cossons favours low rise, large floorplate buildings that have lessimpact on the environment.

There are currently proposals for up to 30 towers in British cities with atleast nine planned for central London, all of which are taller than 400 ft.These will be the first since Tower 42, formerly the NatWest Tower inBishopsgate, EC2 which is 650 ft tall. Planning consent has already beengranted for Lord Foster’s Swiss Re Tower on the Baltic Exchange site in EC3,which has been criticised for resembling an ‘erotic gherkin’ and is as tall asTower 42. Heron Corp. is awaiting the result of a public enquiry onits proposal to build a 600 foot tower in Bishopsgate, EC2.

Sir Neil took a sideswipe at Livingstone at the launch of ‘Guidance on TallBuildings,’ when he said: ‘At the moment there’s hardly any public debatebeyond a small coterie of advocates for such buildings, the Commission forArchitecture and the Built Environment and Ken Livingstone. There is a muchwider debate to have.’

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