High-rise Chelsea

Date:

08/03/2007

Source:

Evening Standard

Matter:

Lots Road

Back in the dark days then John Prescott was responsible for planning matters, one of the most notorious instances of his heavy handedness was his decision to approve the building of two large towers on Lots Road in Chelsea. This decision was taken against the advise of his own planning inspector, following an extensive inquiry. Yet the scheme was, and is, immensely controversial. One of the proposed towers is 25 storeys high and the other is 37.

Now that decision is being challenged by a doughty campaigner for the preservation of the Thames, Lady Dido Berkeley. Her argument is that the proposals fail to take into account the guidelines in the London Plan for riverside developments. It requires priority to be given to uses that specifically need a waterside location. Today the High Court begins its hearing on that challenge to the Secretary of State - who is now Ruth Kelly rather than Mr Prescott.

The principle in the London Plan that sites on or close to the Thames should respect the character of their environment deserves to be upheld. Furthermore, the site actually straddles two boroughs, and when the project was first submitted for approval, Hammersmith and Fulham approved one tower, while Kensington and Chelsea refused the other. Now, however, Hammersmith and Fulham has passed into Conservative control, and the council is vigorously supporting the objectors to the scheme.

With two councils against the proposals, surely Ruth Kelly, with whom the matter ultimately rests, will be sympathetic to appeals to overturn Mr Prescott's decision. Tall buildings are fine in certain locations, but this is not one of them.