'Gagarin Square' space rocket tower prepares for blast-off

The promoters of an audacious scheme to build a tower inspired by a Russian space rocket in Southwark Street hope to gain planning permission this summer.

Gagarin Square
A model of the proposed tower has been exhibited in the cafe at Lambert House since last summer

Gagarin Square is the latest venture of Don Riley, owner of the Menier Chocolate Factory. The scheme is intended for the car park site immediately to the west of the listed chocolate factory building.

Designed by Nikita Yaveyn of St Petersburg-based architects Studio 44, the tower has been inspired by the Vostok 1 rocket which carried Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961.

Plans for the scheme – which include a 350-seater theatre and spaceship-themed bar, a new home for the Art Academy, offices, a restaurant, a tea museum, tea room and nine homes – have been displayed in the cafe at Lambert House on Southwark Street since last summer.

Images of the proposed development were also shown at last December's Borough, Bankside & Walworth Community Council meeting.

Now a timetable for the scheme's progress has been published on the Gagarin Square website, including the intention to gain planning permission this summer and to demolish Lambert House as soon as July.

The scheme's website claims the endorsement of Southwark Council leader Peter John, as well as actor Tom Conti and developer Harry Handelsman.

However Riley's ambition for a 20-storey building may be brought down to earth by Southwark's planning department.

The council's draft appraisal of the Thrale Street conservation area – due to be discussed at community council later this month – calls for a building of no more than seven storeys at this location.

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