My London Assembly Member Kit Malthouse has an excellent letter in The Guardian this morning. Since being elected Mayor of London Boris Johnson has gone a bit soft on modernist architects and their continuous proposals for even more huge ugly buildings across the capital. The Conservative members of the London Assembly are seeking to be a good influence on him to show more resistance. Kit is also Deputy Mayor for Policing. In case you missed it his letter runs as follows:
It came as no surprise that the world's "leading" architects should circle the wagons to defend Richard Rogers's design for the Chelsea Barracks site (Don't interfere, experts tell Charles after he criticises new development, 20 April). This is a standard tactic deployed by that elite club when the public doesn't like their work. Their other tactic is to gather together and award each other prizes.
In their letter those self-proclaimed luminaries state that the planning system is "open and democratic". It is nothing of the sort. Negotiations between developers and planning officers take place behind closed doors, the public has little formal say, and the final arbiter in all cases is a man in a suit from the planning inspectorate in Bristol, who may not even visit the site before deciding its future. For the poor old local councillor, planning has become a high-stakes game of poker where councils are forced to compromise over mediocre architecture for fear of getting something worse.
As one of the democratically elected representatives of the area that includes Chelsea Barracks, I welcome Prince Charles's intervention, not least as it is only since he spoke up that the real debate has started. Until now, the democratic process looked like being forced to nod through a development that will have future generations shaking their heads in disbelief, much as we do about many of the "prize-winning" developments of the 1960s and 70s.
We do not need to look far to see what Rogers's vision for Chelsea would mean. His brutal designs for No 1 Knightsbridge are currently rising out of the ground like a rank alien weed on the very edge of precious Hyde Park.