The row about the London Eye capsule recently painted in the corporate orange of the wheel's sponsor looks set to run and run after Lambeth's planning applications committee voted to refuse advertisement consent.
We reported last week that Lambeth Council design and conservation officers had raised serious concerns about the colour scheme applied to one of the wheel's 32 pods earlier this year to coincide with the start of EDF Energy's three-year sponsorship deal.
On Tuesday night the matter was considered by the borough's planning applications committee which voted 3-1 to refuse consent for the repainted capsule despite a lack of clarity over whether or not the choice of paint colour in itself constitutes an advertisement.
"We very much appreciate the help that the council has given us and certainly we don't want to fall out over these sorts of issues," said David Sharpe, divisional director of Merlin Entertainments, in his presentation to councillors.
"We've become an economic regenerator on the South Bank in a big way," said Mr Sharpe, who chairs the South Bank Employers' Group.
"I think we have created an attraction that has become a symbol for 21st century London."
He explained that the familiar white/grey colour scheme used on the other 31 pods had originally been chosen to match the colour of the fuselage of aircraft operated by the wheel's first sponsor and part owner British Airways.
"We're not intentionally looking to cause issues here," he said. "EDF is a tier 1 Olympic sponsor and we're very strongly at the forefront of the Olympics in London and we want to support that."
He said that other potential sponsors "would have wanted to do far more dramatic things" to the wheel and "one doesn't get sponsorship for nothing".
Mr Sharpe added that he had spoken to many people who live and work on the South Bank who had not even noticed the orange capsule.
Lib Dem committee member Cllr Brian Palmer, usually a hardliner on conservation matters, was the only member of the committee who supported the orange pod.
"I think that the conservation officer ... is being slightly precious on this one," he said – reminding the committee that the Eiffel Tower had carried advertising for Citroen in the 1920s and 1930s and on the South Bank the Oxo Tower was a famous example of corporate branding in the fabric of the city.
Alluding to the Lib Dem party colour, he added: "I'm tempted to say that there's not enough orange in Lambeth as it is."
Committee chair Cllr Diana Morris and committee member Cllr Ruth Ling explained that they had been able to study the orange capsule in detail whilst waiting for last week's TUC anti-cuts march to move off along Victoria Embankment.
"Because the march proceeded exceedingly slowly on Saturday we had a very long opportunity to have a look at it in various positions," said Cllr Morris.
"I'm afraid to say that I agreed with the conservation officer."
She went on to say that the "obtrusive" orange capsule has "changed the way the wheel looked".
The committee voted 3-1 to agree the officers' recommendation that permission be refused for the orange pod but unanimously agreed that other branding changes around the wheel be allowed.
Members decided not to endorse the officers' recommendation that the council should move to prosecute Merlin Entertainments should the orange colour scheme not be removed within 28 days.
Les Brown, Lambeth's outgoing head of planning, told the committee: "I am concerned that our relations with the London Eye should not be jeopardised by this particular issue".
"It's a matter of judgement whether it's a piece of fun or very problematic," he said.
He added: "I would be loath to move towards a prosecution".
The matter is now likely to be subject to an appeal by Merlin Entertainments and the question of whether or not the orange colour applied to the pod constitutes an advertisement under planning law will be determined by a Government inspector.
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