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Beetham London Recommended For Approval

The planners at Southwark council in London have recommended that Beetham's planned tower on Blackfriars Road, SE1, be approved despite widespread opposition from some quarters against it.

The scheme nicknamed "the Boomerang" thanks to its distinctive shape has been designed by Ian Simpson Architects for the developer who have teamed up with luxury hotel brand Jumeirah as the anchor tenant.

Originally designed to be 219 metres, the height was reduced following concerns that it was too high for the area, and completely dominated the view from other parts of London too. The unconventionally wide girth of the building also raised the eyebrows of some who are used to more traditional shapes in skyscrapers.

The current design reaches 173 metres and has 52 floors above ground. It actually comprises of three buildings including an affordable block of housing next door whilst the tower will have 261 hotel rooms, 96 apartments, and be topped by an observation platform that will be open to the public all year round.

The most substantial complaints came from English Heritage and Westminster Council. English Heritage in particular attacked the building for being visible from St James Park and claimed it would "cause an unacceptable degree of harm to significant cross London views" despite being in an area zoned as suitable for high-rise developments.

This was also asserted by Westminster Council who cited the same complaints mentioning too that Beethams Tower would be damaging to the Westminster World Heritage site. This issue was taken so seriously that money was spent on an extensive scoping report that came to the conclusion the skyscraper was not visible from anywhere at all inside the site and that Westminster must have been adding areas to the site that are not actually part of it.

The hostile comments by Westminster Council about the visibility of the building were totally rejected in the report by the planning officers at Southwark who cited what they believe is the outstanding design of the scheme and its architectural noteworthiness as reasons for it being recommended for approval, a clear example of two councils with differing ideas of aesthetics.

The City of London had no objections, perhaps because they too are building skyscrapers, and neighbouring Lambeth just wanted some money from the developer to mitigate the impact of the proposal on their local infrastructure.

The most puzzling objection was from the Royal Parks Commission who claimed that the viewing gallery would cause light leakage into St James Park at night. Southwark's planning officers totally disagreed with this point of view saying "light leakage into the park is impossible at this distance" and that any lights visible would just blend in with the general lights of London.

Whether Southwark's councillors agree with this diagnosis of the building remains to be seen. Although there has been a number of seats change hands since the elections this May, the building remains contentious for some and there are plenty in SE1 who would be happy to see the plans thrown out.

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