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With the announcement that Norton Rose, the current occupiers of the site are finally going to move we take an in-depth look at what was the zeitgeist in London planning reform, but still hasn't been built.

110 Bishopsgate is currently occupied by a rather staid grey post-war concrete mid-rise, the sort of thing that was the staple diet of City office space in the 1960s. With the successful application of 30 St Marys Axe by Swiss Re, Heron Properties bought the site with the intention of knocking it down and building a brand new skyscraper to cash in on some of the success of Tower 42 and the recently refurbished Citypoint.
Heron gambled big in the 80s and lost even bigger, their owner Gerald Ronson saw his name become synonmonous with the collapse of the Thatcher Boom of that decade but now he's back with bigger ideas than ever. The site off Bishopsgate is one of the few that has little problem with the protected sightlines towards St Pauls that cut the City into slices so realising this makes it ripe for another skyscraper thanks to the seeming precedent Swiss Re had set.

Project Details.
110 Bishopsgate is designed by the well know american architects KPF. Their main requirements for this tower was to create something of a similar massing and space to the already standing Tower 42 that fits in well with the City.
This building certainly does that, appearing different from each map axis.
The view from Gracechurch Street shows a stepped tower culminating in a spire of 222m. Looking down London Wall towards Bishopsgate shows a sheer facade of blue glass and contrasting white clearly designed to fit in with the neighbouring 99 Bishopsgate. There's plenty of references to other buildings in this tower too including diagonal bracing on the cladding to give it that technological feel so many of todays City buildings have.
The tallest portion of the tower, the area around the spire is positioned as to not cause much visual disturbance on the views from Waterloo looking towards the City so it should appear behind Tower 42. It is only when looking away from St Pauls that this feature becomes more promiment. This reduction of the visual profile is helped by the stepping on the top third of the skyscraper, creating the illusion of a tower that appears shorter than it is.
It is this tallest portion of the tower that is the core, set on the south side of the site and on which the buildings services are located. As well as the moving lifts using motion to break up what would be an otherwise staid view, they will also be providing access to a rooftop restaurant that will be open to the public and provide stunning views of London.
It may not be the most exciting design in London but it fits in well with the rest of the cluster whereas new buildings such as Minerva and 122 Leadenhall are clearly design to make much more a statement. Aesthetically speaking it is perhaps the perfect traditional skyscraper for the City because it is so conventional looking.

The planning process.
With planning in the City of London there will always be a 'before Heron' and 'after Heron' watershed thanks to the tidal-wave of reform this tower created.
City of London was under seige from Canary Wharf and at panic stations about Frankfurt usurping it's position. The planning board there had previously been anti-skyscraper but faced with losing the likes of HSBC to Canary Wharf, a company so desparate to stay in the City it had spent 5 years trying to find a site to build a new skyscraper to no success things had to change.
With the desparation of the Corporation of London to build more office stock that firms there wanted they awarded outline planning permission to 110 Bishopsgate in 2001.
The next factor in the tower's progress was the newly elected Mayor, Ken Livingstone who is a skyscraper geek, taking it as far as occupying Centerpoint in the 70s to protest at bad planning. With London's most senior politican being an expert in architecture and having ultimate say of the planning decisions he rubber-stamped it and provided a powerful voice of support. Had Steven Norris been Mayor it is likely he would have refused it there and then.
Apart from Swiss REs gherkin, there hadn't been a serious proposal to build anything tall in the City since 1988 when British architecture was still reeling from Prince Charles' attacks on it, but those were the days when people still took his opinions seriously.
For whatever reason the Gherkin wasn't called in to a public inquiry, mostly because English Heritage failed to insist on one. For them opposing 110 Bishopsgate, this was probably the fatal error that they opposed the wrong building. In letting through an equally tall and even more avante-garde structure that would change a skyline basically frozen in time since the early '80s Heron Properties had a recent precedent.
This building didn't infringe the St Pauls sightlines anymore than their own they claimed giving them the first thing to beat any opponents with. Indeed from the most cherished viewpoint of Waterloo 110 Bishopsgate is barely visible whilst Swiss Re stands out like sore thumb.
Despite this English Heritage put massive pressure on the Deputy Prime Minister who was forced to announce a public inquiry. The nature of their decision is still open to discussion, as they had a number of votes before the chairman got the result he wanted.
At the cost of 12 million pounds of public money English Heritage spent months trying to argue that St Paul's would be ruined by this building. They cited sightlines where thanks to smog the City isn't visible whilst cutting down trees to ressurect old sightlines without the permission of the local councils to ressurect sightlines from the original 1886 legislation. Every time they argued this planners from the Corporation of London and the Mayors office stood up and said the opposite, with such powerful interests E.H had the case stacked against them from the start.
All this time the public inquiry dragged on other developers watched nervously and planned proposals were put on hold, certainly delaying development of towers in the City by a couple of years.
The heritage lobby lost the inquiry but this was hardly a surprise given the complete lack of evidence that they had produced in comparison to the lobby protesting for the building, indeed their entire case was centered around a dogmatic ideology that anything tall distracts the view away from St Pauls', in otherwords St Paul's has an unalienable right to be the dominant feature on the London skyline and that nothing tall should be built within miles of it.
In having an inquiry into a building that has little impact compared to the likes of Minerva English Heritage gambled and lost on the wrong project. Had they picked their battles better they might have won, but instead all they managed to do was create a legal precedence other developers could use as long as they didn't block the sight-lines to the cathedral. This decision was in turn cemented by a second public inquiry, this time into London Bridge Tower whilst the cost of losing these two inquiries has wrecked the finances of English Heritage and starved it of funds it could use for restoring old buildings.

Future Prospects.
Gerald Ronson originally planned construction immediately after a public inquiry in 2002 but the office market by then was experiencing a downturn thanks to Sept the 11th. In no rush to build a tower speculatively and have it finished before an upturn in the office market he let Norton Rose, the current occupiers of the site stay and concentrated his efforts on buying a neighbouring property to create a second building of similar design slightly under 100m tall with the americanesque name of Heron Plaza which is planned to see simultaneous construction with it's taller neighbour.
With the office market now looking up in 2004 Norton Rose are reluctant to move until they have new premises and Heron are faced with their tower starting after the likes of Minerva's even though they got planning permission two years before. This is particularly bad if they want to catch the upturn in the City office market first and robs them of the advantage they would get from that.
It looks likely they will try to buy out the remainder of Norton Rose's lease and start construction in 2005 because otherwise they are faced with a 2007 start for the tower which means they may even have to reapply for planning permission. Of course by then 122 Leadenhall will be under construction too as well as a smattering of mid-rises so their investment will be facing increased competition.
This tower, and it's shorter twin WILL goahead in the end. Just not yet.

Building specs.
Office Tower.
Height - 600ft/ 183m
Floors - 42
Start date - 2005
Completion - 2008

Skyline Views.