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Camden will not prosecute over south portico

15 March 2002

Camden Council has decided "it would not be expedient" to prosecute the British Museum over the use of French limestone rather than English Portland to build the south portico of the Great Court.

It has been more than a year since the matter was making headlines in the Evening Standard. At that time, the Council\'s officers had advised the development control committee not to attempt to prosecute the British Museum or to try to have the portico pulled down and replaced with a Portland stone version.

The Queen opened the Foster & Partners £l00mfflion Great Court Scheme in December 2000, by which time English Heritage had taken the stance that no action should be taken over the south portico.

Camden councifiors felt the matter should be pursued because it created a dangerous precedent. How, they argued, could they take action against a private householder for ignoring planning restrictions if they allowed the British Museum to get away with it on an internationally important project like the Great Court.

However, having sought the independent opinion of two Queens Council the development control committee has finally concurred "with regret" that no action should be taken.

Following the revelation that the wrong stone had been used by contractors Easton Masonry (Portland) Ltd, the matter was investigated by Scotland Yard\'s fraud squad. Papers from that investigation remain with the Criminal Prosecution Service No decision has yet been reached about whether any further action will be taken.

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