The proposed 43-storey Doon Street tower and leisure centre on the South Bank will be the subject of a planning inquiry, communities secretary Hazel Blears has confirmed.
"English Heritage welcomes the Secretary of State's decision to call in this scheme for a public inquiry – this is the proper forum to debate all the issues," the heritage watchdog said in a statement.
"English Heritage supports the principle of redeveloping this site and welcomes any public benefits it could bring. However, we have advised the local authority about our concerns as to the impact of the scheme on the historic environment.
"We are very concerned that the tower would have a serious adverse impact on views from Somerset House and St James's Park and upon the setting of neighbouring listed buildings, particularly the grade II-star National Theatre and Grade I Royal Festival Hall."
Design watchdog CABE has warned that the tower would 'highly compromise' Somerset House across the river.
Objectors include the Waterloo Community Development Group who complain that the proposal includes 329 private apartments and not a single affordable home. Coin Street Community Builders (CSCB) argues that the proposed swimming pool and leisure complex on the site will deliver significant community benefit.
The proposals enjoy the support of Kate Hoey MP ("... the Doon Street proposal is vital for the future of this part of London"), Southbank Centre, South Bank Employers' Group, Sport England, the National Theatre, King's College London, Southwark Council, P&O Estates (developers of Elizabeth House on York Road), Tate and the parish of St John's Waterloo.
It is understood that the call-in only relates to the planning application for the residential tower and leisure centre designed by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands (LDS). The applications for Rambert Dance Company headquarters (designed by Allies & Morrison) and the office element of the scheme (also by LDS) nearest Waterloo Bridge will not be factors in the public inquiry.
CSCB boss Iain Tuckett told us last month that if the scheme avoided a public inquiry he hoped to complete it in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.
• News of the call-in comes in the same month that it emerged that the proposed Beetham tower just across the Southwark border is to be reduced in height to address criticism by English Heritage.
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