THE Church Commissioners do have an awful record both as landlords and custodians of our urban heritage.

It was the Church Commissioners who destroyed the Tyburn Estate in Paddington, replacing dozens of midVictorian terraces with largely characterless blocks of flats.

They are, basically, property developers, but they have a sanctimonious and misplaced attitude that they are doing what they do for God.

What God thinks of the Dickens Yard proposal, I dread to imagine.

Let me put it on record that I think the Town Hall site is an absolute tip. How long have those Portakabins been there?

Then there is that finance department wing, built of unfaced Flettons. It looks like something thrown up by Omsk City Council in a hurry. And as for the car park, well that defies description. First you have to negotiate the potholes, then the weeds along the east boundary.

When I was on the council I asked if something was going to be done to improve the car park, given that this is often the first thing visitors to the borough see. Did I receive support? Er, nope. Councillor Phil Portwood pompously intoned that councils shouldn't spend money on their own property.

Of course, we will hear the usual hooey about the council's fiduciary duty. And, indeed, the council's statutory duty to obtain the best possible consideration, often interpreted as an obligation to cram any given piece of land with as much gerrybuilding as it will take.

Should a site of this importance not be used as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for architects to show us the very best of their skills? A competition, anyone?


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