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Brisac Gonzalez Old Kent Road skyscraper approved despite design concerns

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Councillors have approved construction of a 48-storey Brisac Gonzalez tower in south-east London despite concerns raised by a design review panel and heritage campaigners

Southwark Council’s planning committee granted full planning permission to the local practice’s 160m-high skyscraper as part of a 1,113-home scheme also including buildings and overall design oversight from Alan Camp Architects.

Backed by landowner Aviva Investors and developer Galliard Homes, the £600 million project at 520 Old Kent Road will see an overhaul of Cantium Retail Park near South Bermondsey train station. 

The scheme will create 750 homes for private sale, as well as 126 shared-ownership apartments and 237 flats and maisonettes for social rent.

It will also involve more than 5,000m² of office space, more than 2,000m² of retail facilities as well as restaurants, a café, a cinema and other leisure and cultural premises. A public square will be formed along with pedestrian boulevards, piazzas, a linear park and further landscaped areas.

Historic England said the development would have a ’major townscape impact in a wide range of views, many of which we consider to be harmful to the historic environment’.

Southwark’s design review panel, consisting of ‘innovative and distinguished architecture and design practitioners’ according to the council’s website, also raised concerns.

‘The panel raised a question over the identity and hierarchy of the development,’ according to a planning officer report to councillors. ’The panel did not feel there was a coherent narrative in terms of the hierarchy of place in the way it has defined the routes and spaces in and around the site.’

The report added: ’The panel challenged the designers to develop the detailed design of the towers, to give them a recognisable sense of identity.’

However, after considering all the relevant issues, including the regeneration and housing benefits, planning officers recommended approval of the application.

’The proposal would deliver a very high standard of accommodation, which would comply with the majority of the standards and principles of exemplary residential design, as set out in Southwark’s residential design standards supplementary planning document,’ said the report to councillors.

’In particular, the scheme would include a majority of dual aspect units of 64 per cent, which is considered very good taking into account the high density of the scheme.’

Alan Camp Architects founder Alan Camp said: ’The success of this scheme stems from the inventive and creative dialogue of two local architectural practices working openly and constructively together in conjunction with receptive clients and council officers who were always available and open to discussion.

’This formed the collaboration and structure for a very successful and diverse scheme for this important location in the centre of the Old Kent Road.’

Existing anchor tenants at Cantium Retail Park will have sites in the new development and the developers are in talks with other tenants about making provisions for them within the scheme.

Aviva Investors senior director Helen Rainsford said: ’Aviva Investors is pleased planning consent has been granted for the regeneration of Cantium Retail Park. Working with Galliard Homes, we believe we can create a superb residential-led mixed-use development that will transform the site for the benefit of the local area.’

Galliard Homes executive chairman Stephen Conway added: ’The regeneration of Cantium Retail Park will serve to kick-start the wider planned regeneration and transformation of the entire Old Kent Road into a vibrant new high-quality commercial, retail and residential destination for South London. 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Hiddeously out of scale with the surroundings, and doubtless a wind tunnel creator in the surrounding streets, once built.

    I thought the perceived wisdom, a few years after the rush to build residential tower blocks in the 1960s, was that hi-rise housing was socially undesirable? Where and how, still, will little Jonny and Jane safely go out to play? Or will it be James and Jocinda who'll be ferried everywhere by mummy in her 4x4? Or will the private flats just be bought by foreigners as investments, and left empty?

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