Norman Baker (Lib Dem MP for Lewes, who believes Dr David Kelly was murdered) has a Question (238996) down today for the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform ...." whether his Department has raised with the US authorities their decision to prevent British firms from bidding for the contract to build a new US embassy in London; what assessment he has made of this decision in terms of compatibility with EU law; and if he will make a statement."
It was on October 2nd that second hand car dealer , Ambassador Robert Tuttle (he donated $200,000 towards Dubya's 2004 re-election his inauguration ceremony)anounced that the US Embassy would be vacating their current premises opened in 1960 and designed by Eero Saarinen, the Finnish-American architect on land currently leased in Grosvenor Square from the aged roue the Duke of Westminster. Rumour has it that approaches to buy the freehold have been brushed off with the reply that the Duke will sell when they restore Manhattan to his family.
Elswhere the justifiably nervous (if not cowardly) US Government has built a series of super-secure embassies, set far back from local residential areas and usually out of town.
The US State Department appointed Cushman & Wakefield ..."Global real estate solutions" .. to start looking for a new location after local resident’s (AKA Grosvenor Square Safety Group ) became restive about the extensive and inconvenient security which disturbed their quiet enjoyment of the Square. It is believed they have their sights on somewhere near MI6's riverside Palace and The US Department of State signed an agreement with Irish developer Ballymore last month to acquire a site in Wandsworth for the construction of a new embassy building.
Whilst the tender from the US State Department says only American architects with “experience in the design of American embassies and other buildings” will be invited to tender for the project, although UK-based branches of American firms will be able to apply - it is understood UK firms will be eligible to work as subcontractors.
The Grosvenor Square Safety Group accused the Metropolitan Police and Westminister Council of a "moral failure" for rejecting Ambassador Tuttle’s demands for the closure of two roads next to the embassy and placed ads in the press.
"A democratic country like the UK cannot adopt a very forward policy in fighting terrorism abroad while at the same time leave its citizens and residents — some of whom are Americans — exposed around top terrorist targets at home," the group said.
A consequence was an absurd £8 bonanza for security consultants and street furniture anoraks as they upgraded the front elevation with 6 ft high blast walls, raised concrete flower beds, moveable bollards, and some stern looking men.
Ambassador Tuttle has a history of unpleasantness and came to blows with Red Ken over the US refusal to pay his Congestion Charge. Red Ken called the US Ambassador a “chiselling little crook.”
Tuttle says the charge (they have run up at least £2.5 Mn so far in arrears) is a form of taxation, and the diplomats and their staff are therefore exempt under Article 23 the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations....."The sending State and the head of the mission shall be exempt from all national, regional or municipal dues and taxes in respect of the premises of the mission...."
It might interest Ambassador Tuttle that the FCO is currently employing American architects for new British Embassies in Jakarta [HOK Architects - who also spent 17 years refurbishing the FCO in St. James and have undertaken extensive work on the MOD Main building ] and Rabat [RTKL Architects]...."The project also provides a clubhouse and swimming pool for the staff."