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More woes for Walkie Talkie - Sky Garden not built to plans

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The owners of London’s Walkie Talkie have been asked to reconfigure the controversial tower’s Sky Garden after complaints the built scheme didn’t match consented plans

The garden, which takes up floors 35, 36 and 37 of the Rafael Viñoly-designed building at 20 Fenchurch Street, helped developers Canary Wharf and Land Securities win planning permission despite the tower being outside of the City’s main skyscraper cluster.

But six months after it opened, planners are to consider alterations drawn up by landscape architects Gillespies in response to claims by the City of London Corporation that the current layout was not consistent with illustrations submitted with the original section 106 application.

The report which will be considered by the City’s planning and transportation committee on Friday (31 July) lists a number of inconsistencies with the original illustrations, including a missing terrace, staircase and servery, as well as a terrace and servery being built larger than on the original plan.

A document before the committee says: ‘The owner is of the view that since the requirement is to provide access to the Sky Garden ‘as illustrated’ on the Sky Garden drawing, the changes were permissible because the drawing is illustrative, as long as the minimum areas of publicly accessible space are retained.

‘[However] the City is of the view that these changes are not consistent with the requirement to ‘provide and retain the Sky Garden as illustrated on the Sky Garden drawings’ as they were to illustrate the areas to which non-diners could access.’

Gillespies’ proposed changes will add additional planters, seating and a servery to floor 36 - the middle of the three floors taken up by the garden.

These alterations, the report continues, would not fully reflect the initial illustrations, with officers conceding replicating the consented plans would result in closing the garden ‘for a significant period of time and at considerable cost’.

The committee will decide whether to accept the changes as a variation to the section 106 planning conditions as a new layout plan.

It will also consider a new visitor management plan to give access to the garden to an extra 50 non-diners during off peak hours.

The building owners have also offered to open up a second lift to the garden to speed up access for visitors at peak times.

A spokesperson for 20 Fenchurch Street said: ‘Our visitor management plan, which reflects the section 106 public access requirements, has been developed with the input of the City of London and fine-tuned during the first few months of opening in response to footfall and visitor trends.

‘We are committed to ensuring that anyone making a free visit to the Sky Garden continues to have as enjoyable an experience as possible and, like other visitor attractions, we will continually review new ways of achieving this.’

She said that more than 200,000 members of the public had made a free visit to the Sky Garden since it opened, and that most feedback about the experience had been positive.

Last year, the building was fitted with a sun shade after complaints that the reflection of the sun was melting cars parked nearby. In recent weeks concern has also been raised about high winds around the base of the tower.

How the built Sky Garden differs to the plans - report extract (page 186)

• The servery at Level 35 is larger than was shown on the plan
• At level 36 terraces were to be provided at either side of the restaurant area to provide equivalent views for non-diners as diners. That to the west has not been provided and that to the east provides more limited access
• At Level 36 a servery was to be provided
• Between Levels 36 and 37 a staircase was to be provided on both the west and the east sides to provide a circular route. The staircase on the west side was provided although differently configured and the staircase to the east was not provided meaning that the space has to be entered and left via the same staircase
• The Level 37 terrace is larger than previously shown.

Sky Garden at top of Walkie Talkie tower as planned (RVA)

Sky Garden at top of Walkie Talkie tower as planned (Rafael Viñoly Architects)

 

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