Plans to turn Tower Bridge's bascules into a giant advertising billboard have received a setback with the news that Tower Hamlets is likely to refuse listed building consent for the sponsorship banner.
Last month we reported that the City of London Corporation, which owns the bridge, had applied to Southwark and Tower Hamlets councils for permission to erect an advertising billboard on the lifting sections of the bridge, known as the bascules.
The banner would cover the scaffolding to be installed for three months this winter whilst the bascules are repainted as part of a programme to spruce up the bridge in time for the 2012 London Olympics.
Now planning officers at Tower Hamlets council, which is the planning authority for the northern half of the bridge, have written to their Southwark counterparts to confirm they are minded to reject the proposal.
"The council is likely to refuse these applications on the basis that the proposed advertisement banner would have a negative impact on this particularly sensitive landmark," wrote Tower Hamlets planning applications manager Ila Robertson.
"Even on a temporary basis the scheme is likely to have a detrimental impact on the appearance of the grade I listed bridge and on the setting of the Tower of London world heritage site.
"For similar reasons the London Borough of Tower Hamlets would object to the display of a banner on the Southwark part of the bridge."
Although the advertising proposal has appalled some campaign groups including the World Monuments Fund, the idea has found favour at City Hall.
"It's a temporary measure to cover up a large amount of scaffolding which will itself be unattractive," wrote Roger Evans AM, leader of the Conservative group on the London Assembly, in response to an article on ConservativeHome.
"I welcome this innovative idea for raising cash in difficult times – we need more of this type of thinking."
According to Stuart Fraser, chairman of the City of London Corporation's policy and resources committee, "there is absolutely no thought of us using this as an advertising venue beyond this three-month renovation".
He told ITV's London Tonight: "It's a very simple idea: the bridge is going to be somewhat disfigured by the tarpaulin ... let's see if we can make some money out of it that can go into our charitable foundation."
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