Heralding Heron: the beginning of the end for heritage culture?
The Heron Tower decision is a momentous one for the way that London will look, for architects, and for the construction industry as a whole. It is also an important one for English Heritage, the government's own conservation agency, whose advice was here found to be 'inconsistent'with its Swiss Re approach and whose own future is to be decided by a government review.
This government, often criticised for being too close to big business, has decided to allow the tower, designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox, to go ahead, siding with CABE but against EH and effectively throwing out its opinion that important views will be adversely affected. And, remember, within the past fortnight this same government has also attempted to rectify the country's ailing stock of houses, schools, hospitals, and now airports. Again post-inquiry, a new runway and even Terminal 6 may complete New Labour's prodevelopment stance. It feels a long time since a public inquiry found against a significant building proposal.
What will Heron do to the UK? Certainly in the short term it is easy to conclude that a rash of development proposals will come forward to test the ruling. It will be interesting to note now how the Grimshaw Minerva building - another tower, again in the City - fares. For St Paul's with Heron, read Tower of London with Minerva.
Interesting, too, to see (shortly) how Renzo Piano's plans for the London Bridge Tower, or 'shard of glass'as he calls it, is viewed now a precedent has been set.
One man who will be watching closely at this postHeron scenario will be Ken Livingstone, now ensconced in his City Hall home, newly opened by the Queen, peering over the river at where his towers vision may now materialise. His was the enthusiasm for tall structures and - often overstated - criticism of EH which has now been ratified by central government. And in his parlance, he has 'saved'the City as a financial centre with the ability to put up large buildings for major occupiers. Economic benefits would not have been solely enough to outweigh heritage harm, said the inspector handling the inquiry. But, and tellingly, those 'benefits' won through in the end.