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Russian space rocket tower: developers lodge appeal

The developers behind an audacious proposal to build a 30-storey tower modelled on a Russian space rocket have lodged an appeal against Southwark Council's decision to veto the scheme.

Gagarin Square
A model of Gagarin Square exhibited to the public in 2012

Don Riley – the man behind the Menier Chocolate Factory – has teamed up with Russian investors to redevelop the adjacent site at 55 Southwark Street with a high-rise tower inspired by the rocket that took cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin to space in 1961.

The scheme has been designed by Nikita Yavein of Studio 44 architects in St Petersburg.

The tower with nine very large flats would sit above a new theatre, museum and restaurant building on Southwark Street.

Last October Southwark's planning committee resolved to refuse planning permission for the Gagarin Square development, citing ten reasons for refusal.

The reasons for refusal included concern about the tower's height, its impact on views and local heritage.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson decided not to intervene in the decision after City Hall planners savaged the proposed tower.

Officers in the Greater London Authority's planning department advised the mayor: "Whilst there is a great English tradition for architectural follies, such as the National Gallery extension, in this case the joke is likely to wear thin with the passage of time."

Now the company behind the scheme, Southwark Square Ltd, has lodged an appeal against Southwark's decision and requested that a public inquiry is held.

In their submission to the planning inspectorate, the developers claim that the rocket tower would provide "a unique and interesting landmark building that will valuably contribute towards wayfinding within London; building on the City's set of fondly thought of towers, such as 'the Gherkin', 'the Shard' and 'the Cheesegrater'.

Yuri Gagarin's daughter is said to back the proposal, along with Tom Stoppard, Tom Conti, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Trevor Nunn.

A date for the public inquiry has not yet been set.

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