Freedom of Information memo reveals Former deputy PM's officials rejected the Broadway Malyan tower he approved in 2005

Former deputy prime minister John Prescott’s decision to allow a 50-storey skyscraper to be built in Vauxhall, south London, went directly against advice from his officials, it has been revealed.

An internal departmental memo, made public under the Freedom of Information Act, shows that Prescott’s senior civil servants concluded:

“We do not believe that the provision of affordable housing is adequate, as it comprises a disproportionate number of small units.

“Harm would be caused [by the building] to the setting of the [Westminster] World Heritage Site and a number of conservation areas… You are therefore invited to agree that the appeal be dismissed and planning permission refused.”

The 180m tower, by architect Broadway Malyan for developer St George, was called in by Prescott’s department but given the go ahead by the deputy prime minister in July 2005.

The decision was controversial at the time as Lambeth Council had originally turned the scheme down. It said it was concerned about the proportion of affordable housing and the quality of the design. A planning inspector brought in to decide if the refusal be appealed, who had previously granted permission for the controversial Heron Tower, had also recommended that the scheme should not go ahead.

Former Conservative environment secretary Kenneth Baker instigated the Freedom of Information request. Last month, he won a freedom of information ruling that will force the DCLG to disclose advice given by civil servants to ministers on major planning decisions that are called in.