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Fear of terror hits City scheme

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The threat of global terrorism has forced radical changes to a major office scheme by Bennetts Associates in the City of London.

The 10-storey development on Basinghall Street was originally given the go-ahead as a mixed-use scheme back in July.

However, the potential occupier of the offices, the Standard Chartered Bank, raised concerns about the inclusion of retail space on the ground floor that, it believed, would open up the building to a possible terrorist attack.

The full extent of the bank's fears was outlined in papers that came before the Corporation of London's planning and transportation committee on Tuesday.

It was claimed that the organisation had 'undertaken a security assessment on the proposed development' and that this assessment had concluded it 'should not occupy the premises unless the proposed retail space [was] removed'.

The corporation had also received a letter from the City of London Police in support of the application. As a result, the committee gave it the thumbs up, even though the changes to the building were contrary to current planning policy regarding mixed-use developments - including the mayor's own London Plan.

A payment of £338,000 will now be made by the bank to the corporation to compensate for the loss of shopping space.

Barnaby Collins of planning consultant DP9, who has been working on the various stages of the scheme, said: 'This is a specific issue for a specific tenant. The corporation planners would have preferred a mixed-use development there, but they were sympathetic to the specific requirements of the tenants.

'My view is that these are fairly unique circumstances. For instance, Swiss Re has retail in its basement and it doesn't have a problem with that, ' Collins added.

Architect Rab Bennetts agreed: 'Five or 10 years ago some organisations only wanted single-use buildings but now they are seeing the benefits of mixed-use schemes. Some banks were worried about buildings that had areas of public use - areas in which the public couldn't be screened. But today the trend is rather the other way.

'It is certainly not a problem on other sites we are working on, ' Bennetts added.

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