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Tuesday, October 20, 1998 Published at 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK

UK Politics

Row over Assembly architect

The design by Richard Rogers, which has provoked anger

The winning architectural design for the £10m Welsh Assembly building has sparked a political storm over "cronyism".

The Richard Rogers Partnership, headed by Labour peer Lord Rogers, was picked by a panel of assessors chaired by former Labour premier Lord Callaghan.

It was recommended as the winner last week after an international competition was held.

But Conservatives have accused Labour of "cronyism", saying the design was chosen without adequate public consultation.

Announcing that he has accepted the judges' view, Welsh Secretary Ron Davies called the winning scheme "visionary and imaginative".

He said: "It is bold and appealing. I am confident that this Assembly building will be recognisable throughout the world as a symbol of our new democracy into the next century."

Gazing into the future

Mr Davies added: "The panel spent a full six months in a detailed examination of the needs of the Assembly and in considering proposals from the world's leading architects. They have done a tremendous job."

Plans for the building will be widely exhibited across Wales. The six designs on the shortlist had gone on show across the principality before the final one was picked.

Glass globes, which form part of the design, have earned the futuristic building the nickname "Crystal Balls".

It is due to be built in Cardiff Bay in 2001. The 60 Assembly members will have a temporary headquarters at Crickhowell House near the chosen site after their election in May.

Richard Rogers' group is also responsible for the Millennium Dome.

English Bourne - Welsh bred

Meanwhile, the battle for Tory leadership in elections to the new Assembly intensified as the party's chief spokesman in Wales threw his hat into the ring.

Professor Nick Bourne, founder of the Just Say No campaign against Welsh devolution, announced he would be a contender against former Welsh Office minister Rod Richards.

Like Mr Richards, Mr Bourne described himself as "the unity candidate".

He said: "We must reach out to our lost supporters in Wales and I believe I am the leader who can do that."

Englishman Mr Bourne said Conservatives would go into the elections next May determined to regain ground lost to Labour.

Answering criticism from Mr Richards that only a Welshman should lead the party in Wales, Mr Bourne said that, although born in England, he was fully committed to the principality where he had lived and worked for 30 years.

The contest is to be decided next month in a postal ballot of the 11,000 Welsh Conservative members.

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