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High Court challenge to 20-storey Tate 'rival'

Leigh Hatts

A legal challenge is being mounted against plans to build a 20-storey tower alongside Tate Modern.

tate tower
Computer generated image of the planned tower

The dramatic move was made minutes before the appeal deadline expired by Hopton Street residents who live opposite the two-storey Victorian stables which are due to be replaced by the tower. Many flat dwellers would lose their views and the main Tate entrance 50 metres away would be in shadow for much of the day.

The planning application by London Town was rejected by seven votes to one by Southwark Planning Committee but this decision was overturned when developers appealed to a planning inspector this summer.

However, Bankside Lofts and Falcon Point residents complain that the inspector insisted on referring to Tate Modern as an industrial building and a power station. There was no recognition that visitors come to see the building which was designed by cathedral architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. There was also no mention that the transformation of the building has won the prestigious Pritzker Prize.

"The public invested £135m in the creation of Tate Modern" says Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota who wishes to see the public interest protected. "In any other country the area would be kept as a lung within the city. The site should be part cultural and part community use."

The action is being taken by three residents with the backing of BROAD – Bankside residents for Appropriate Development – who according to spokesperson Theresa Towle represents over 130 residents from council tenants to owner occupiers who are overwhelmingly opposed to the tower block.

"We feel that we have no choice but to challenge the inspector's decision" says Theresa Towle. "The new building should be low rise and a gateway building complementing the Tate."

Dean of Southwark Colin Slee, who also lives alongside Tate Modern, says: "This scheme will benefit a few and deface the environment for millions."

Plans for the 20-storey tower block have been described as a "blunder" by former Deputy Mayor of London Nicky Gavron.

"Building a tower here would result in a windy space, shaded most of the afternoon" says Nicky Gavron who is the Mayor's stratergic planning adviser. "What could be the equvalent to Paris's sublime Place des Vosges will be an urban wasteland. It's a terrible example of a greedy developer maximising profit to the detriment of the public realm."

The judical review of the planning decision is expected to be heard at the High Court in February.

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