Beetham Tower in doubt as council votes against allowing tall building along Blackfriars Road

Ian Simpson’s 68-storey Beetham Tower at Blackfriars Bridge is facing the axe because of opposition from senior officials at Southwark council.

The council’s executive voted against designating Blackfriars Road a skyscraper zone at the end of last month. At present, the areas suitable for tall buildings in Southwark are limited to the Elephant & Castle and London Bridge.

The decision means developments such as Simpson’s £500m mixed-use tower and Wilkinson Eyre’s 35-storey office complex at 20 Blackfriars Road will be axed, or sent back to the drawing board, as they will not get the go-ahead from the council.

Tim Cutts, principal planning policy and regeneration officer at Southwark council, said hopes were low for further high-rise developments along Blackfriars Road. He said: “In terms of how this affects the Beetham Tower – it doesn’t look promising for that particular development. The same goes for 20 Blackfriars Road.

The architects are aware of this decision but we have not discussed it.

“The officers proposed three locations for tall buildings within Southwark but members didn’t want to include Blackfriars Road, citing townscape reasons. The officers now need to reconsider the options.”

In terms of the Beetham Tower – it doesn’t look promising

Tim Cutts, Southwark council

Southwark councillor Jeff Hook, the executive member for regeneration, said the council understood the advantages of tall buildings in the right communities but that it did not want to give carte blanche to develop them around Blackfriars.

Southwark’s executive committee ordered its planning officers to redraft the consultation document, Tall Buildings Supplementary Planning Document, restricting it to the two areas already identified in the London Plan – Elephant & Castle and London Bridge. It also asked them to define a “tall building”.

The redrafted document will then have to be approved by the executive before it can go out to consultation. Cutts said there was no firm timetable yet in place.

The news comes amid growing concern about the effect of Simpson’s Beetham Tower, which is proposed for the site of the former Sainsbury’s headquarters on the corner of Blackfriars Road and Stamford Street, next to Blackfriars Bridge.

Westminster council recently appealed to mayor Ken Livingstone to protect the view from St James’s Park to Horse Guard’s Parade, the historic site of trooping the colour, by granting it “protected vista” status. If the mayor agrees, this would prevent Beetham Tower from going ahead, as it would be visible behind Horse Guard’s Parade despite being on the other side of the river.