Chelsea Barracks architect to take on Mark Weintraub’s controversial 63-storey Docklands tower

Developer Commercial Estates Group has commissioned Chelsea Barracks architect Squire and Partners to conduct a review of its planned 63-storey Columbus Tower development.

The 237m high mixed-use tower in London’s Docklands, designed by architect Mark Weintraub, became notorious after London mayor Boris Johnson overruled Tower Hamlets council to give it planning permission in October 2009.

However, despite the permission, Commercial Estates said it now wanted an independent review of the scheme, thought to have a construction value of around £400m, to see if it is still appropriate for the current economic and regulatory environment.

Nick Lee of Commercial Estates said the review would be a wide-ranging assessment of what was now an appropriate development for the site. He refused to rule out the review leading to a new planning application, and said there had been no decision over whether to give Squire and Partners a full design job, saying he was keeping an “open-mind” about the process.

He said: “The market’s changed and the world’s changed since we got this permission. We need to see what impact it has on this project. Others will feed in with a market review in due course, but I really don’t want to pre-judge anything that may come out of this process.”

Lee said the appointment of Squire and Partners, one of three architects currently drawing up designs for a revised Chelsea Barracks masterplan, should not be seen as a snub to the original architect. Lee said: “We’re still in close touch will Mark Weintraub, who put a huge amount into our original scheme. But we wanted to make sure this review was independent of the current scheme.”

The scheme involves redeveloping Hertsmere House.

In 2009 it became the first development to be “called-in” for review by new mayor Boris Johnson, after being refused by Tower Hamlets council against the advice of its officers.  It had also been opposed by English Heritage.

Michael Squire of Squire and Partners said: “This is the most significant site in Docklands outside the Canary Wharf Estate.  We look forward to working with CEG to get the most out of this unique location.”