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English Heritage predicts inquiry for Piano mega-tower

English Heritage believes that Renzo Piano's £350 million designs for Europe's tallest tower at London Bridge are heading for a public inquiry.

EHhas not yet issued its final comments or formally referred the plans. But London region director Philip Davies told the AJ that, having looked at the 306m tower's likely impact on strategic views - again concerning St Paul's, from Kenwood - he would be 'surprised' if it did not go the same way as the Heron Tower before it.

'There are two fundamental principles: whether a high building is appropriate, and what impact it will have on the historic environment, ' said Davies. 'If it passes, other factors will kick in. I would be surprised if there isn't a public inquiry.'

But Peter Vaughan, director of the tower's codesigner Broadway Malyan, said the application - submitted to Southwark council on Monday - was a 'benchmark for planning', with 80 fully rendered views on its impact. 'There's no better location for a building of its magnitude, ' he said. 'The intention is to build when consented.'

The claims followed the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's award of an 'amber light' to the scheme this week. CABE said the tower could be a 'great landmark' and a 'remarkable, world-class building' on a suitable interchange site for a tower of 'exceptional design quality'. But it warned that neither the design of the lower levels nor the interchange itself are up to scratch, and agreed that a public inquiry was likely on the grounds of the building's height.

CABE boss Jon Rouse added that he wants the Greater London Authority and Southwark to be more 'proactive' in commissioning a masterplan for the wider area and others to thrash out policies for a succession of tall building applications to come.

It was also 'essential' that Southwark council should guarantee that the Renzo Piano Building Workshop is retained and the client not permitted to 'dumb down' the scheme after any consent is given. Property tycoon client Irvine Sellar promised a 'cast-iron guarantee' to that effect.

On that matter, CABE is to work on drawing up model clauses with law firm Herbert Smith and wants 'robustness' so that elements like the kind of glass Piano has specified is used in the final building, rather than a cheaper alternative.

CABE's design review committee saw the Heron Tower proposal, but considered the Piano tower for Sellar Property important enough to be seen by all 13 commissioners, the first time this has happened. It said the building could become a new 'picture postcard' symbol for the capital and 'clearly move forward the architecture of London's tall buildings into the twenty-first century.'

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