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Councillors reject KPF’s 20-storey Southwark tower

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Southwark Council has rejected an application for a 20-storey tower by Kohn Pedersen Fox due to its ‘excessive height, scale and massing’

The tower was planned for a 0.3ha site in St Thomas Street, down the road from The Shard, which has already been cleared and is currently being used for temporary shop units and food and drink stalls.

It borders the Vinegar Yard, where Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) has applied to convert a 19th century warehouse into a 16-storey mixed-use building under plans described as ‘gratuitously clumsy’ by heritage campaigners.

KPF’s tower would have provided office and shop space, as well as public realm. The scheme also included a three-storey pavilion, which would have contained a 200-person music venue.

The developer behind the proposed scheme is St Thomas Bermondsey Limited, which is run by private equity company CIT Group Partners.

Planning officers at Southwark Council had recommended the scheme for approval, advising that harm to lower buildings nearby, including in a conservation area, would be more than offset by ‘the provision of high-quality architecture’.

But councillors voted by six to two to block the scheme, with councillors citing concerns about the development looming over the area and harming buildings in the surrounding area. 

They later voted unanimously to block the application because of its ‘excessive height, scale and massing’ and effect on the Bermondsey conservation area. 

John Bushell, a principal at KPF, said: ‘Our proposal sought to find the right balance between the provision of high-quality new workspace for this central London location and local community benefit, including affordable studios to support Southwark’s artistic community, a performance venue and new public spaces. 

‘We are very disappointed not to have received the committee’s approval, but remain optimistic that we can agree on how to revitalise this important and long undeveloped site.’

Southwark’s planning committee had also been due to rule on RPBW’s neighbouring scheme, but a decision on that application has now been deferred.

Planning officers for the borough have recommended that the RPBW scheme should be approved.

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