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Inspector blocks 24-storey 185 Park Street tower

A planning inspector has backed Southwark Council's refusal of planning permission for a 24-storey tower close to Tate Modern.

185 Park Street
Visualisation of the proposed development seen from outside Bankside House in Sumner Street. Image courtesy Smoothe/Eric Parry Architects

In dismissing the developers' appeal he points out that the building would have been only marginally lower than the Tate Modern chimney.

"I see no compelling justification in urban design terms for such a prominent landmark building in this location" says Colin Ball, the inspector appointed by the Secretary of State.

Duelguide Property Investments, part of Multiplex, had proposed a mixed use development of three buildings on the site of 185 Park Street, the former National Grid headquarters, bounded by Park Street, Emerson Street and Sumner Street. Following Southwark's refusal of planning permission last year Multiplex lodged an appeal against the council's decision.

"Such a tall building in this location would have particularly harmful implications for the character of the area when considered from both wider viewpoints to the north and from the surrounding streets" says the inspector. "The 24 storey tower would compete visually with the Tate Modern chimney, unbalancing the established townscape composition.

"The surprising view of St Paul's from Great Guildford Street, which does so much to establish a local sense of place, would be seriously interrupted. The opportunity to provide a harmonious enclosure to the eastern end of the new Tate Modern open space would not be taken.

"I consider that the design of (the 24 storey) Building A in particular is inappropriate in its context and that the scheme fails to take the opportunities available for improving the character and quality of the area. It is not therefore acceptable."

During the planning inquiry, which sat for five days at Southwark Cathedral in March, Nathalie Lieven QC, represententing the developers, claimed that the benefits of the scheme were overwhelming and the detriments almost non-existent. She accused the council of "taking a very precious attitude towards Tate Modern".

Gary Rice, Southwark's principal design and conservation officer, had described the proposed tower to the east of Tate Modern as "jarring" and a challenge to the height of the Tate chimney.

Among those giving evidence at the inquiry were representatives of Sumner Buildings residents who claimed that the proposed building would cause a loss of light.

The architect of the rejected design is Eric Parry whose other work includes the Southwark Gateway (aka Southwark Needle) at London Bridge.

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