Communities secretary Hazel Blears has ordered a public inquiry into plans for a skyscraper hotel next to Blackfriars Bridge.
The Beetham Tower – which will include a 261-room Jumeirah hotel – received the go-ahead from Southwark Council in December 2007 after a series of revisions to the original design by architect Ian Simpson.
Developers Beetham hoped to avoid a lengthy and costly planning inquiry by reducing the height of the tower by 10 metres to address objections from English Heritage about the tower's impact on views from St James's Park and the lack of a joined-up planning strategy for tall buildings in north Lambeth and north Southwark.
A letter to Southwark Council from the Government Office for London sent this week explains that "the Secretary of State is of the opinion that this application is one that she ought to decide herself because she considers that the proposal may conflict with national and regional policies on important matters".
News of the call-in of the 1 Blackfriars Road application by Hazel Blears comes in the week after the close of a planning inquiry into the Doon Street tower proposed just across the borough boundary in Lambeth.
Ms Blears has asked the planning inspector who will conduct the inquiry to report to her on "the appropriateness of a very tall building in this location and the extent to which this proposal is in accordance with English Heritage/CABE Guidance on tall buildings which recommends that tall buildings are properly planned as part of an exercise in place-making informed by a clear long-term vision, rather than in an ad-hoc, reactive, piecemeal manner".
The inspector is also asked to consider whether the proposal accords with Southwark, London and national policy on design and affordable housing.
The call-in letter can be read online here [PDF].
Jumeirah had hoped to open their hotel in time for the London 2012 Olympic Games – a deadline that looks increasingly difficult to meet.
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