City of London planning officers have recommended approval for Foster + Partners’ opinion-splitting Tulip on a site next to the Gherkin.
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The planned 305-meter-tall tourist attraction has come in for considerable opposition from Historic England and Historic Palaces, both of which object to its impact on the views of the Tower of London, as well as the Greater London Authority, which said it had “significant concerns” about its design.
Even so, the City’s planning committee is being asked to wave through the designs for the plot, at 20 Bury Street, at its meeting on April 2nd, 2019.
While the planning officers admitted the design would detract from the setting and the significance of the Tower of London’s World Heritage Site, they argued that “due to its height and form” the scheme would cause “less than substantial harm,” and was therefore acceptable.
The 152-page report reads: “Virtually no major development proposal is in complete compliance with all policies and, in arriving at a decision, it is necessary to assess all the policies and proposals in the plan, and to come to a view as to whether, in the light of the whole plan, the proposal does or does not accord with it.”
It concludes: “This case is very finely balanced. The development is significant in terms of its local and wider impacts, and in particular, its less-than-substantial harm to the World Heritage Site. Taking all material matters into consideration [and] … giving very considerable importance and weight to the desirability of preserving the setting of the Tower of London as a heritage asset of the highest significance, the public benefits of the proposal nevertheless outweigh the priority given to the development plan and other material considerations against the proposals.”
The tower would be the tallest structure in the City of London, edging above Eric Parry’s proposed 1 Undershaft. The Shard is currently and would remain the tallest building in Greater London. The Tulip would feature glazed observation levels supported by a huge concrete shaft to create “a new state-of-the-art cultural and educational resource for Londoners and tourists.”
An online survey of 1,011 Londoners, run between 13 and 18 December, 2018, suggested that two-thirds (65 percent) believed the skyscraper would be “an attractive addition to the London skyline.” It also showed that 69 percent of respondents think the Tulip would have “a positive impact on the City of London’s attractiveness as a visitor and cultural destination.”
A spokesperson for the Tulip’s backers said they welcomed the “planning officers’ [decision] to recommend resolution to grant planning permission. Since we submitted our application, we have engaged with significant numbers of local stakeholders, including heritage bodies, schools, businesses and residents in the City and neighboring boroughs, and we look forward to hearing the City of London Planning and Transportation Committee’s decision.”
Asked to respond to the officers’ recommendation, Historic England’s London planning director Emily Gee repeated her previous statement issued in December: “In our view, the proposed building would cause harm to the significance of the Tower of London, one of London’s four World Heritage Sites. We’ve not seen clear and convincing evidence this harm would be outweighed by public benefits. The visual contrast between the modern City of London and the historic Tower of London has been established for decades but has intensified in recent years as the Eastern Cluster of buildings becomes taller and denser. This new building is located towards the edge of the Eastern Cluster, and would create a vertical cliff edge to it when viewed alongside the Tower of London from the east. This, coupled with the unusual eye-catching form of the Tulip, would reduce the visual dominance of the Tower of London. We have not seen clear and convincing evidence that this harm would be outweighed by public benefits, and we, therefore, cannot support the proposals.”
If approved, the project could begin on site as early as 2020 with completion scheduled for 2025.
For more on this story, visit the Architects’ Journal.