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RSHP reveals it removed practice name before skyscraper segregation row

Shutterstock rshp elephant castle
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Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners has revealed it had already removed its name from a skyscraper in south London, which is at the centre of a row over a segregated gym and rooftop lounge

Southwark Council is currently investigating the planning conditions of the 45-storey Highpoint residential block in Elephant and Castle after some residents complained they were barred from using the gym and rooftop lounge.

Those living in the shared ownership flats, managed by Peabody, are not permitted to use the amenities, which have been set aside for private tenants occupying homes run by Realstar brand, Uncle. 

The council has stressed it does not agree with ’separate access to public amenities’ in one building, but that it had so far found no specific condition relating to the viewing lounge or gym.

But RSHP senior partner Ivan Harbour said their original 2004 design for the project was designed with communal space at the top of the building that ‘all residents would have access to’.

Harbour said the designs, for developer First Base, were a ‘casualty of the financial crisis’ and that as the practice was not involved in the building’s execution it has removed its name from the project. 

The site, a former hotel, was acquired by the government for key worker housing, but despite RSHP’s scheme being approved in 2007 it was never built out by First Base.

The project was later resurrected after then London mayor Boris Johnson struck a deal with Canadian owner Realstar for a private rented sector-led scheme.

The final tower, which included 278 homes for private rent and 179 affordable homes for rent and shared ownership, was built under a design-and-build contract led by Mace, which brought in Axis as delivery architect. It was completed last year.

Asked about the segregated space row, a spokesperson for Uncle said the company was in full compliance with all planning obligations but refused to comment on whether it would introduce changes to allow all tower residents access.

A Peabody spokesperson said: ‘We’ve previously had conversations with the managing agent and would support our residents if, as a group, they wanted access and for that to be reflected in the service charges levied by the managing agent.’

Councillor Johnson Situ, Southwark’s planning chief, said: ‘The council will seek to find a practical solution but the council’s position is that we do not believe in separate access to public amenities in the same building.’ 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • This is an important issue given the increasing number of tall residential blocks in London and elsewhere. It should be possible to distinguish between a amenity which should be accessible to all (eg a roof garden), and a facility which requires operational revenue (eg a gym). In both cases, maximum opportunity/choice should operate. It is not acceptable to run a sort of apartheid system which splits, rather than creates, communities.

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  • Industry Professional

    This is happening to most of the development in London. Which includes Riverlight by RSHP at Nine Elms and it opposite Embassy Gardens by Arup.

    None of the Shared-ownership residents is able to use the amenity facilities within its development. In fact, from what I heard is that the shared ownership in Embassy Garden Phase two is only paying £120 less than the private market block.

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