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20 Fenchurch Street Approved

Developer Land Securities have received planning approval for their redevelopment of 20 Fenchurch Street in the City of London.

The 160 metre tall tower designed by Rafael Vinoly, has been nicknamed "the walkie talkie" thanks to the distinct CB radio shape it takes on. This bending shape with a slight curve has proven controversial thanks to the position it takes up on the emerging City of London cluster where many feel it appears to overshadow the River Thames.

The unconventional shape where it gets larger at the top and tapers at the bottom, almost 30 St Mary Axe in reverse, has also proven to be a love-it or hate-it feature but one that displays a large amount of commercial nous - the higher up the building the floor-plates are the more rent it will get. The scheme is crowned by a huge skygarden that will be open to the public.

The main complaints however were from English Heritage who spurred on by UNESCO attacked the tower as an "upturned flying saucer" with an "attention seeking form" and even the lack of affordable housing in an office scheme.

Their arguments used were considered by observers to be particularly weak with some believing they had been bounced into opposing a tower they originally had few problems with and that the main demand for a public inquiry was coming from former Communities Secretary, Ruth Kelly, who attempted to rush it through so she could decide personally despite a lack of a statutory body referring it.

Kelly had already come up with what could most politely be described as a "unique" reason for refusing planning permission of Brunswick Quay in Liverpool that was easily disproved by a quick read of the scoping documents raising the spectre of a government minister who was anti- high-rise.

Kelly however was reshuffled by Gordon Brown to Transport only weeks ago leaving it to Salford's Hazel Blears, an mp with a previous reputation of supporting new developments, at least in her own constituency.

Now that Blears has ruled in favour Land Securities can proceed with their development which already has the demolition contractors on site going through the early stages of removing the present building, and assume market conditions are favourable, will be able to start construction in 2008.

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