Row hits Studio Egret West tower
Developer Berkeley Group appears to ignore own chairman’s advice on 31-storey skyscraper in south-east London’s Kidbrooke Village development
A leading high-rise housing developer has commissioned Studio Egret West to work up plans for a 31-storey tower in the London suburbs, sparking a row over its ‘entirely inappropriate’ height.
Berkeley Group, one of the principal sponsors of the London Festival of Architecture 2014, is behind the £1 billion Kidbrooke Village scheme in the Royal Borough of Greenwich, a scheme which replaces the now demolished Ferrier Estate.
The 4,000-unit masterplan for the development by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands was originally given consent five years ago, but Berkeley is now proposing to add more than 1,000 extra homes, including those in Studio Egret West’s planned 31-storey residential tower.
The firm is also behind plans for the UK’s tallest residential tower by Foster + Partners in London’s South Quay. Berkeley chairman Tony Pidgley last week appeared at the London Assembly planning committee hearing on tall buildings and told members: ‘Towers should go round transport hubs – that’s where they should be – and they should be in clusters’. However, there is no cluster in Kidbrooke, and the area has been given a public transport accessibility level (PTAL) of only three out of six.
The council’s planning guidance for the area recommends a maximum height of 15 storeys, less than half the height of the proposed tower.
Following a recent public consultation on the plans, neighbouring action group the Blackheath Society wrote to Berkeley to protest at the densification and particularly the ‘entirely inappropriate’ tower.
The letter complained it would be visible from Blackheath ‘in the buffer zone of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site’, and from the grounds of the Art Deco landmark Eltham Palace – one of the council’s designated viewpoints to central London.
Bartlett professor Peter Rees, the former City of London planning officer who appeared alongside Pidgley at last week’s hearing, said: ‘This is in the middle of the suburbs. My question to the mayor is “if you can build a tower in Kidbrooke, where can’t you build one?”
‘What is the justification for marking it out on the skyline other than to bring people in with promises of views other than Kidbrooke?’
Rees added that developers should be building ‘doughnut-shaped’ residential developments containing usable open space, rather than towers.
In a consultation document on the plans, Berkeley said the tower – on a site within the masterplan previously intended for a hotel - would contain retail and restaurant space at ground level along with upper floor communal terraces and a ‘sky garden’.
The document continued: ‘The tower is designed to create a vertical community, able to live and enjoy recreation through the provision of well-orientated common areas and amenity spaces.
‘The tower is inspired by the common design language from the emerging buildings at the village centre and the landscape of the Metropolitan Open Land/park to the west of the site.’
Chairman of Berkeley’s East Thames division, John Anderson said: ‘We had a very good public consultation and are now reviewing the feedback prior to submitting a planning application. We understand the debate over tall buildings and will reflect this in our submission.’
Studio Egret West declined to comment.
Other firms working on Kidbrooke Village include Barton Willmore and CZWG.