Developer Beetham is to submit revised plans for its 1 Blackfriars Road tower with the height reduced from 180 metres to 170 metres in a bid to avoid a lengthy planning inquiry.
The revelation came in a talk given by Beetham Organization chairman Hugh Frost at New London Architecture in Store Street on Wednesday morning.
At the end of July Southwark's planning committee resolved to grant planning permission for the 51-storey tower which will include a 260-room luxury hotel run by Dubai-based Jumeirah – "probably the most luxurious hotel in London" according the Beetham boss.
But the scheme was opposed by English Heritage which warned that Beetham's plans "would cause significant harm to London's historic environment".
The heritage watchdog raised "the strongest possible objection" to the scheme due to its impact on significant cross-London views including those from St James's Park and Waterloo Bridge.
Now it seems that Beetham has cut a deal with English Heritage to avoid a "call-in" to the secretary of state and the prospect of a planning inquiry.
"With a bit of luck we'll avoid call-in with a reduction to 170 metres without reducing the output of the scheme," Frost told guests at the breakfast talk.
It seems likely that English Heritage will withdraw its objections to the reduced-height design, allowing Beetham to obtain planning consent by the end of the year with work starting on site in July or August of 2008.
The latest height reduction is a pragmatic move by Beetham and means that the developer is more likely to meet its target completion date of 2011 – just in time for the 2012 London Olympics.
"Developing significant buildings and changing the skyline of cities is a privilege," says Frost – adding that doing so in London "is the greatest privilege in the world".
The Blackfriars scheme features a public-accessible "skydeck" at the top of the tower which Frost says will become a "fantastic tourist attraction" to rival the London Eye.
He spoke about some of the issues facing developers working on high-rise schemes since the events of 11 September 2001, noting that "it's amazing how tall buildings have still become so popular despite that terrible tragedy".