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The Quill: Eric Pickles rules out public inquiry into 31-storey tower

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has decided not to order a public inquiry into plans for a 31-storey tower of student accommodation next to Guy's Hospital.

The Quill: Eric Pickles rules out public inquiry into 31-storey tower

Southwark Council's planning committee resolved to grant planning permission for Investream's development, known as The Quill and designed by SPPARC, last November.

The tower would replace King's College London's existing Capital House office building at the corner of Weston Street and St Thomas Street.

Because Historic Royal Palaces and English Heritage had objected to the proposal on the grounds that it would appear in views from the Tower of London, the application was referred to communities secretary Eric Pickles who could have chosen to order a public inquiry.

This week Mr Pickles' department wrote to Southwark Council to confirm that the planning application would not be 'called in' for decision by the secretary of state himself.

"Having carefully considered [the] planning issues raised by the proposal together with all representations received it has been concluded that the secretary of state's intervention would not be justified," wrote planning casework officer Ian McNally.

"The secretary of state is satisfied that the planning issues ... have been adequately addressed by the council and that the application does not raise issues of more than local importance which would be more appropriately decided by him rather than the local planning authority.

"He has, therefore, concluded that the application should be decided by Southwark Council."

Mr Pickles' decision may not be the end of the road for opponents of the Quill – local property owner Russell Gray told the London SE1 website this week that he is "considering the possibility of a judicial review" of the council's decision to approve the scheme.

Because of the possibility of a legal challenge to the planning committee's November decision the matter was referred back to councillors on 18 January for clarification.

The council's head of development management, Gary Rice, told the planning committee that he was confident that the original decision was sound.

"We have taken some advice – in terms of the resolution that you reached – from counsel and we argue that it is a safe decision to issue," he said.

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