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Secretary of State blocks Allies and Morrison's £1bn Waterloo Towers


The government has rejected the controversial £1 billion Three Sisters tower scheme on London’s South Bank

Secretary of State John Denham said the proposals for P&O and Morgan Stanley Real Estate, which would see the redevelopment of the existing Elizabeth House near Waterloo Station ‘fell short of the excellence expected’ and lacked ‘the balanced, sculptural [and] elegant qualities crucial to the success of tall buildings.’

Featuring two office blocks and a residential skyscraper (22, 27 and 39 storeys respectively), the designs were initially approved by Lambeth Council. However, the scheme was slammed by the likes of English Heritage (see below) and called in last October.

Denham’s decision comes following a public inquiry in April this year.

The decision letter from the Department for Communities and Local Government reads: ‘[The] secretary of state agrees with the inspector at that the success of the scheme is severely compromised by the appearance of the buildings, the way they would relate to each other and the resulting effects on their surroundings.

‘He agrees with the inspector that, as pieces of architecture, neither Building C [the residential block] nor the two office towers would possess the balanced, sculptural or elegant qualities crucial to the success of tall buildings.

‘He also agrees with her that, individually, the buildings would fall short of the excellence expected and, collectively, the scale of the design flaws would be heightened with far reaching concerns about the effects on the skyline, on important views and historic assets.’

Practice co-founder Graham Morrison said: ‘Naturally it is a huge disappointment. It is also sad to think that this crucial but run-down site will continue to be neglected. We all had such high hopes of revitalizing this one remaining eyesore in the middle of the thriving South Bank.

He added: ‘But, despite our personal regret at the outcome, the bigger picture is better. As staunch supporters of South London - I personally live and work in the area - we do see some good in the principles established by this Public Inquiry.

‘The Inspector’s conclusions leave wide open the possibility of a substantial development of the site in the future. This validates the principle that tall buildings may one day occupy the Waterloo site. Westminster will need to accept a new visibility to express the success of the south of the city.’

Previous story (15.04.09)

English Heritage slams £1bn Waterloo towers

English Heritage (EH) has publicly attacked Allies and Morrison’s proposed high-rise Elizabeth House scheme in central London.

EH claims the three-tower development next to Waterloo Station would cause ‘significant harm’ to the Westminster World Heritage site.

A public inquiry into the £1 billion development for P&O on London’s South Bank, which features two office blocks and a residential skyscraper (22, 27 and 39 storeys respectively), kicks off later today (15 April 2009).

According to a statement released to the AJ, EH is expected to tell the planning inspector the proposals, known as the Three Sisters scheme, could ruin the setting of the Palace of Westminster as well as harming views of some of London’s most architecturally and historically significant buildings.

The landmarks threatened, claims EH, include the recently refurbished Grade I-listed Royal Festival Hall the Grade II*-listed County Hall and the Royal National Theatre.

An EH spokesperson said: ‘There is no reason why regeneration need come at the expense of the historic environment of London. 

‘English Heritage supports the redevelopment of this site and is not opposed to the inclusion of tall buildings as part of that redevelopment, as long as those buildings do not unacceptably harm the setting of key heritage assets.’

The scheme, which will house more than 100,000m² of office space and nearly 300 apartments, was approved by both Lambeth Council and London Mayor Boris Johnson last year.

However, the plans were called in by communities secretary Hazel Blears in October claiming the proposals could breach national policy on tall buildings and impinge on strategic views.

A angry Graham Morrison – the co-founder of Allies and Morrison – said at the time that the call-in had only come following pressure from EH.



Readers' comments (5)

  • The planned development is a giant cukoo in an already overcrowed and unappealing nest. But why make it worse? English Heritage is right.

    Graham Morrison - you should be ashamed of yourself.

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  • Good to see this project going ahead. English Heritage should appreciate that this rather dismal area needs regeneration.

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  • Waterloo is lucky this out of scale bemoth has been rejected.

    A good decision.

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  • These towers do seem to lack some excitement. They should look at how I.M.Pei do high rises.

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  • Thank god Morrison is not building thess extremely poor buildings.
    South London needs much more than just chucking money at it: It needs vision, it needs a real concept and an architectural-urban project.
    Here, this is unfortunately the result of what americans do at their worse, ie: the city of London. These buildings need architectural excellence. Bring in Chipperfield, Fretton or Adjae to raise the design level, if there are going to be any towers there.

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