Controversial South Bank redevelopment by Make heads to public inquiry following storm of objections from campaigners
The government has called in Make Architects’ controversial plans to redevelop the former ITV headquarters on London’s South Bank, a week after mayor Sadiq Khan approved the scheme.
Developers CO-RE and Mitsubishi Estate’s proposals to flatten all buildings on the site to make way for an office-led development will now go to a public inquiry overseen by an independent planning inspector.
Earlier this spring, Lendlease was appointed to carry out the main construction contract on the scheme codenamed Project Vista.
It is one of the capital’s biggest building jobs to be let this year but now faces months and months of being stalled by the inquiry.
Another controversial scheme, Fosters’ Tulip tower in the City of London, was rejected by Khan in summer 2019 before being kicked out by the secretary of state last November following a planning inquiry.
Lendlease pipped Sir Robert McAlpine and Laing O’Rourke to the £400m job, known as 72 Upper Ground. McGee was set to carry out demolition work but the job was put on ice by then secretary of state Michael Gove.
His successor Greg Clark said in his decision letter that the inquiry should consider evidence on the extent to which the plans are “consistent with the government policies for conserving and enhancing the historic environment, particularly in respect of designated heritage assets”.
> Also read: Gove intervention on ITV studios leaves many wondering which scheme is next in firing line
The size of the riverfront scheme, which consists of a 26-storey tower linked to a 13-storey block, has been contested because of its proximity to the grade II*-listed National Theatre and the grade II-listed IBM Building.
It was approved by Lambeth council in March despite the planning application receiving hundreds of objections from locals, including Vauxhall MP Florence Eshalomi, and protests from campaign groups.
Gove stepped in days after Lendlease won the job, with Building revealing he had placed an Article 31 notice on the council’s decision which prevented works from starting to allow ministers time to decide whether the plans need further scrutiny.
Last month it emerged that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan had decided not to use his planning powers to intervene in Lambeth’s decision, after it was referred to the Greater London Authority.
This prompted the Twentieth Century Society to write to Clark urging him to call in the proposals, which the campaign group said would “significantly harm” the setting of the adjacent listed buildings.
It added the plans would have a “profoundly detrimental effect on the special character and appearance of the riverfront site, which is both a designated conservation area and positive contributor to strategic London views”.
The society said the South Bank was home to some of the country’s finest post-war buildings and public spaces, with its heritage significance recognised in numerous listings and its designation as a conservation area.
CO-RE and Mitsubishi Estate said in a joint statement this morning that they are “fully committed to delivering this crucial new building that will strengthen the South Bank, which has the support of local young creative groups, planning officers, Lambeth Councillors and the Greater London Authority.
The pair added: “We are obviously very disappointed that the start of construction will be delayed with the creation of thousands of jobs postponed and hope this process moves forward quickly.”
Lambeth’s planning officer said in March the scheme would have a “low degree of less than substantial harm” to the settings of nearby listed buildings but would have “minor to major adverse impacts” on flats in the neighbouring 95-97 Upper Ground building.
The plot was bought by CO-RE and Mitsubishi Estate for close to £150m in November 2019. The project team also includes landscape architect Grant Associates, engineer Arup and QS Alinea.
CO-RE and Mitsubishi Estate’s statement in full
“Mitsubishi Estate London and CO—RE are fully committed to delivering this crucial new building that will strengthen the South Bank, which has the support of local young creative groups, planning officers, Lambeth Councillors and the Greater London Authority. We are obviously very disappointed that the start of construction will be delayed with the creation of thousands of jobs postponed and hope this process moves forward quickly.
“The current site is a dormant closed-off tower in a part of the South Bank that desperately needs investment. We look forward to demonstrating to the planning inspector how our proposals will both respect the local heritage of the South Bank, which has been through a thorough review by Historic England and others, and will enhance and transform the site into an open and welcoming building that prioritises high-quality workspace and the provision of new arts, cultural and green public spaces.
“72 Upper Ground will bring investment, over 4,000 new jobs, and new workspace to one of London’s most famous destinations. Crucially, it will benefit the local community through the London Studios, which will provide 40,000 sq ft net of affordable space that is tailored to the needs of Lambeth’s emerging creative industries. This includes new cultural venues that have rehearsal space, gallery and presentation spaces and sound proofed studios, alongside new riverside cafes and restaurants.”