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London Bridge Tower debate misses the point

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The arguments put forward about the merits of the proposed London Bridge Tower have concerned the skyline and historic view considerations, economic advantages and the quality of design in general and at ground level, in particular.

None of these deal with the quality of urban or civic design, or the fact that the proposed building is massive in scale. This point seems to be overlooked, while there is over-emphasis on the 'tallness' of the building (306m), as though that should be the first consideration.

In my opinion, the first consideration is the building's relationship with the urban scale of its immediate surroundings; its wider impact over, say, 0.5km; and, thereafter, at successive distances.

In the report 'Guidance on Tall Buildings', produced by English Heritage and CABE - said to represent government policy as well as that of the two proponent organisations, and backed by the GLA and London mayor Ken Livingstone - there is little recognition of the relationship of mass, size or scale to tall buildings.

Where the word 'scale' is included, for example in paragraph 2.6 of 'Planning policy', it urges the identification of suitable locations for tall buildings to be determined 'after a detailed urban design study' has been carried out, including 'the consideration of historic context scale, urban grain and natural topography.'

'Evaluating tall building proposals', paragraph 4.4, says:

'CABE and English Heritage will therefore assess proposals in terms both of contribution and any adverse impacts which they may bring. These proposals should be considered as pieces of architecture in their own right, and as pieces of urban design sitting within a wider context; and in this respect they should be assessed in the same way as any other project, and against the most demanding standards of quality.'

All the illustrations of the London Bridge Tower, except those taken from a worm's eye view, show the building to be massively out of scale with its immediate surroundings, as well as the area of London within at least 0.5km.

It cannot possibly be acceptable under the CABE and English Heritage guidance.

The building's scale and massing when seen from Parliament Hill or Blackfriars Station show the total lack of empathy with London.

The illustrations leave the surroundings looking trivial, demeaning the historic context.

The proponents of the project ignore the actual grain of the immediate surroundings and the 'scale' of the City of London.

The building must not be allowed, as it represents an appalling lack of cityscape design and well-being.

If this tower was built it would set the precedent to release a flood of huge and tall buildings, and the end of London's much-admired and appreciated scale.

Tom Ball, London SW1

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