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Council rejects rocket-shaped flat scheme in Southwark

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Southwark Council has thrown out plans for a rocket-shaped tower designed by Russian practice Studio 44

Last night (6 October) the London borough’s councillors agreed with its officers’ recommendations and ‘resolved to refuse’ the proposed 30-storey Gagarin Square building for developer Don Riley, owner of the neighbouring listed Menier Chocolate Company building.

Planners had branded the scheme - inspired by cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight in 1961 - a ‘wilfully insensitive insertion on the skyline’ adding that the ‘design concept had been pursued at the expense of any architectural quality’.

The report to last night’s committee said: ‘The rocket reference is completely alien to the character and identity of Southwark, and indeed London as a whole.’

‘Although strong architectural concepts are encouraged, this requires sensitivity and skilled manipulation to result in the high architectural standards expected. This has not been employed here, where the inappropriate design concept has been allowed to dominate the proposals to a harmful degree.’

Backed by Russian investors, the scheme would have seen the demolition of an existing building at 55 Southwark Street and its replacement with a tower containing offices, a theatre, a bar, a museum and nine large flats.

No provision for affordable housing was made in the application, despite planning policy requiring it on sites with the capacity provide more than 10 homes.

Planners said that the floorspace taken up by the flats could ‘reasonably accommodate 30 flats’.

According to the planning report, a pre-application submission was made in 2010/2011 for a scheme of a similar scale, height and design and officers gave clear advice that the form of development would not be acceptable.

Comment:

Councillor Mark Williams, cabinet member for regeneration and new homes
‘The committee agreed with planning officers that this proposal offered nothing to enhance or support the local area, failed to offer any real benefits for local people and that its design was completely out of keeping for the surrounding streets and buildings. We have a duty to maintain high standards of development in our borough and this application failed to meet many of our policies to do that.”

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