Developer submitted two alternative schemes after concerns lodged about height of original 37-storey proposal

Great Portland Estates has seen both of its proposals to build towers of alternative heights a short distance away from Renzo Piano’s Shard turned down by Michael Gove.

The developer first lodged its 37-storey New City Court scheme, drawn up by AHMM, in 2018.

Concerns were raised about the height of that building so the same architect drew up a trimmed down 26-storey version which was submitted for planning in spring 2021.


Source: AHMM

The 26-storey version of AHMM’s proposals for New City Court, seen at the far right

But Southwark council failed to make a decision so GPE took both schemes to appeal.

In his ruling, the communities secretary agreed with the planning inspector that neither design for the same plot should be allowed, stating that the high-rise proposals would harm the historic surroundings.

Building understands Mace had been working with GPE on the  proposals although the developer was expected to have gone out to tender for the work which was estimated to have a construction value of around £200m.

Under the plans, a grade II-listed run of terraced Georgian houses on St Thomas Street would be refurbished and 1980s office buildings on the site would be demolished.

The 144m tower proposed under the 2018 scheme included a 250-seat auditorium and terrace on its 21st and 22nd floors and a double-height public garden within the building on the fifth and sixth floors.

At the inquiry, the government’s heritage adviser Historic England said it “strongly objects” to both versions of the redevelopment, adding the “greatest harm” from both proposals would come from their “profound impact” on the special character and appearance of the Borough High Street Conservation Area, inside which the development site is located.

Gove said the proposals were “broadly acceptable” but add that they were “undermined by identified shortfalls in public realm, and scale and massings”.

Other firms which have been working on the scheme include project manager Gardiner & Theobald, structural engineer AKT II and QS T&T Alinea.

GPE said it was reviewing the decision.

Gove is also due to make a ruling on Make’s scheme to redevelop the ITV Studios building on London’s South Bank by early next month. The £400m scheme at 76 Upper Ground is due to be built by Lendlease and is being developed by CO-RE. It was called in a year ago by his predecessor Greg Clark.