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Millbank Tower’s new cladding must not look new, say planners

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Westminster City Council is set to impose strict conditions on John McAslan’s conversion of Millbank Tower into flats to ensure the cladding closely resembles the original

Planning officers are recommending approval of revised plans, drawn up on behalf of developer Reuben Brothers to turn the three buildings on the site into 207 flats, a 150-bedroom hotel and a cultural facility.

However an engineer’s report has concluded that the cladding on the 1963 Grade II-listed complex by Ronald Ward and Partners - once London’s tallest building - requires completely replacing.

The report said: ‘It is extremely unusual to have a listed building proposal that removes the external fabric of the building in its entirety and replaces it with new.

‘Historic building philosophy and practice emphasises the importance of retaining historic fabric rather than wholesale replacement.

‘However, with a 20th century building of this type, there are significant problems with retaining the existing external envelope.’

The proposal to reclad the building is opposed by the Twentieth Century Society, which said that it ‘remains to be convinced that [replicating the existing cladding] will be possible in a way that does not impact detrimentally on the appearance of the listed building and thus have a negative effect on its significance’.

The Millbank Complex was one of the first buildings to be built with a concrete frame and a curtain-wall cladding system.

Westminster council admitted that modern requirements such as double or triple glazing and the need to reduce solar gain might lead to some differences.

However, it said: ‘It is considered absolutely essential to the success of the restoration to ensure that the new cladding systems to both the tower and Y building replicate the appearance and materiality of the existing systems as closely as possible.’

The public benefits would outweigh the less than substantial harm generated by the proposal, it concluded.

The developers have also agreed to contribute £2.5 million towards the fitting out of the proposed cultural facility.

This payment is one of the reasons that planners have recommended acceptance of a viability assessment which has concluded that there is no room to provide affordable housing in the scheme.

The height of the tower and a neighbouring building have been reduced slightly during the course of the application.

In addition, a proposed public bar has now been located to the top floor of the tower. 

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