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Blears orders public inquiry into skyscrapers at 20 Blackfriars Road

Communities secretary Hazel Blears has ordered a public inquiry into plans for two tall buildings near the junction of Blackfriars Road and Stamford Street.

20 Blackfriars Road
20 Blackfriars Road seen from the south
20 Blackfriars Road
These buildings - including the former Paper Moon pub - would be demolished as part of this scheme

Less than two months ago the secretary of state ordered a public inquiry into plans for the 51-storey Beetham tower at 1 Blackfriars Road between Stamford Street and Upper Ground.

Now – as widely expected – she has also 'called in' the neighbouring 20 Blackfriars Road scheme which covers the site bounded by Blackfriars Road, Stamford Street, Paris Garden and Christ Church Garden.

Developers Circleplane – who bought the site from Land Securities in July 2007 – want to built a scheme designed by architects Wilkinson Eyre which would bring almost 300 flats, offices and open space to the area.

The scheme comprises a 42-storey residential tower and 23-storey office tower along with further buildings of up to seven storeys. Southwark Council's planning committee resolved to grant planning permission in January.

As in the Beetham case, the minister has asked to be informed by the planning inspector who will conduct the inquiry on a range of matters including "the appropriateness of a very tall building in this location" and the scheme's compliance with national, London and borough planning policy.

There are signs that London is entering a less skyscraper-friendly era under the mayoralty of Boris Johnson. This week he appointed Sir Simon Milton as his senior planning advisor. Sir Simon, currently leader of Westminster Council, earlier this year said: "This fetish for tall buildings anywhere and everywhere will be a disaster for London."

Meanwhile as preparations continue for the public inquiry into Beetham's nearby proposals, the Royal Parks Agency has submitted the outline of its case, known as a rule six statement, explaining why it thinks that the tower's impact on St James's Park would be unacceptable.

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