The wait for a final planning decision on Foster + Partners’ high-profile Tulip tower in London could go into next year after the latest stage of the protracted process was delayed by the coronavirus lockdown
A public inquiry into London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to overturn an earlier approval of the practice’s application for a 304m-tall skyscraper at 20 Bury Street will now begin in November, rather than June, as the Planning Inspectorate grapples with the restrictions of social distancing.
Foster + Partners designed the Tulip scheme for banking giant J Safra Group, which also owns the practice’s Gherkin skyscraper on a neighbouring site at 30 St Mary’s Axe.
The Tulip was approved by City of London Corporation in April 2019. The planning authority’s chief planning officer, Annie Hampson, said then it would ‘boost the City’s desire to widen its economy and deliver a 24/7 City’.
However, Khan stepped in three months later, overturning the decision over a number of concerns, including the scheme’s design. A spokesperson said the mayor ‘believes the design is of insufficient quality for such a prominent location, and that the tower would result in harm to London’s skyline and impact views of the nearby Tower of London World Heritage Site’.
An appeal against this decision was launched in January this year. The team behind the scheme stressed the public benefits of an education and community facility planned for the top of the tower with the potential to be used by tens of thousands of state school children a year.
The housing secretary will make a final decision on the scheme once a public inquiry has been conducted. But the start of this Inquiry has now been pushed back almost five months.
A spokesperson for Foster + Partners said: ‘The Tulip project team has received notice that, taking into account government guidance on Covid-19, the inspector appointed by the secretary of state to this appeal […] is postponing the opening date of the public inquiry. The Tulip project team will continue to work in preparation for the inquiry during the postponement.’
A spokesperson for the London Mayor’s office added: ‘A public inquiry to consider the appeal was originally scheduled for mid-June but, as with so much else, the pandemic has meant this has been put on ice for a while.’
The Planning Inspectorate said this month that it was reviewing cases on a rolling basis to decide on the most appropriate action during the coronavirus lockdown.
‘In light of the latest government advice it is necessary for us to continue to avoid non-essential travel and maintain social distancing. This means that physical events, planned to take place during the lockdown period, will need to be postponed,’ said the Inspectorate in a statement.
‘Where we are postponing events or identifying some as early [virtual] pilots, we are advising parties accordingly. We will also continue to review the situation as and when government advice changes and expect to publish further updates on an ongoing basis.’