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KPF’s replacement for Quill skyscraper in London Bridge approved

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KPF has won planning permission for a 39-storey skyscraper in London Bridge, a taller replacement for SPAARC’s controversial but never-realised Quill tower 

Southwark Council’s planning committee this week approved the proposal for the tower to be built on a corner plot close to Guy’s Hospital and the Shard.

The scheme for developer Greystar will see the existing 10-storey Capital House replaced with up to 905 student accommodation units, as well as mixed-use flexible floorspace and public realm improvements. 

Greystar bought the project, previously dubbed the Quill, from Investream in 2017 and appointed KPF to lead the new design team.

The 31-storey Quill had been approved by Southwark Council in 2010 despite strong opposition from local residents and government design watchdog CABE, which criticised the project as ‘ungainly’ and ‘over complicated’. Historic England also objected to the proposals at the time, raising concerns that its height would impede views of the Tower of London.

Neighbouring landowner Threadneedle later launched a judicial review against Southwark’s decision to approve the scheme but the High Court ruled in favour of the council.

Following the sale to Greystar, KPF Architects went back to the drawing board on the scheme. It significantly reworked designs for the tower to include a three-dimensional, ‘origami-style’ façade and a colonnade-inspired base intended to activate ground-floor public use. 

Its replacement scheme was itself revised in November 2018 to reduce the height of the tower from 45 to 39 storeys. A proposed Migration Museum originally planned for the ground floor was scrapped as a result. 

In lieu of delivering onsite affordable homes, Greystar is providing a £34.1 million contribution to affordable housing elsewhere in the borough.

The tower received more than 80 objections, including from one resident who described the tower as ‘overbearing’, arguing it would set a precedent for tall buildings in the area.

Another objector described the tower as an ‘obvious case’ of overdevelopment, adding: ‘The project seeks to stack as many students as possible into the smallest footprint in a kind of “pile it high, sell it cheap” scheme.’ 

The scheme is part of the wider St Thomas Street East Framework, a ’co-ordinated approach’ by four landowners: Greystar, Columbia Threadneedle, CIT and Sellar.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop recently submitted controversial proposals for a £100 million mixed-use scheme within the development hot-spot. 

KPF principal John Bushell said: ‘The new entrances to London Bridge station have transformed the character of Weston Street and we are very happy to see Southwark approve a distinctive building on this changing street.

‘To both propose a creative, exciting building and a fully compliant affordable housing offer has been a big challenge for the team which we are very pleased to have achieved.’

Greystar’s  managing director of investments Troy Tomasik said the scheme ‘delivers an innovative and exciting proposal to help meet London’s increasing demand for professionally managed purpose built student accommodation.

‘As part of its ambition to support the local community, Greystar is providing a £34.1 million contribution to affordable housing, the largest contribution of its type and level which will go towards providing social housing for approximately 300 people on Southwark’s housing waiting list.’ 

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