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Foster's 'gherkin' for Swiss Re edges closer to the City skies

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Foster and Partners' curvaceous 180m office tower for Swiss Re passed its penultimate planning hurdle last week when the Corporation of London's court of common council voted to go with its planners and grant planning permission.

The protracted planning process has been a frustration to the Swiss insurance client, but now the Grade II-listed former Baltic Exchange Hall at St Mary Axe, bombed by the IRA in 1992, will be demolished to make way for the cigar-shaped tower if deputy prime minister John Prescott waves it through without a public inquiry.

Planning permission with listed building consent would then be granted and Swiss Re will pay land owner Kvaerner NOK 1 billion (£77 million) for the 0.57ha site.

Swiss Re said it will need 30,000m 2of the building when it is built in about 2003 and will be looking to get shortterm tenants for the rest. The building will be London's third tallest and will also provide 1052m 2of retail space.

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone said: 'The quality of design is of the highest order. It certainly has my support.'

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