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20 Fenchurch Street Called In

Britain's largest developer, Land Securities, has hit another hitch with their planned landmark tower in London at 20 Fenchurch Street in the City of London.

The scheme which has divided many thanks to it's unusual appearance has now been called in by government to be a subject of a public inquiry. In the process, the minister responsible Ruth Kelly has for the second time in a week turned established planning ideas on their heads.

The building, affectionately nick-named "the Walkie Talkie" thanks to its retro phone look, was reduced from 192.19 metres to 160.10 metres in height (that's actually a reduction 105.2 feet) following concerns that it would infringe on views of St Paul's Cathedral from Ludgate Circus.

The grounds of a public inquiry are a bit mystifying considering that in all cases the issues have been dealt with by three previous ones and there are approved buildings that infringe on protected views more than 20 Fenchurch Street.

Amongst the issues which the St George's Wharf inquiry dealt with were the effects of tall buildings overlooking the Thames, London Bridge Tower dealt with the effects from the Tower of London and on the general skyline with the impact on St Paul's whilst the Heron Tower also dealt with the result of a tall building in the City of London on St Paul's.

The approved Minerva Building got through the planning system without a scratch despite clearly overshadowing the Tower of London, London Bridge Tower is visible from inside the tower, which the Bishopsgate Tower appears taller when viewed from the South Bank of the Thames so the issues of harm are hard to see when compared to what has already been allowed.

What could well be happening is Kelly is ripping up the rule-book as she did with the Brunswick Tower in Liverpool by ignoring established planning consensus to set her own mark on the planning system.

In the case of 20 Fenchurch Street, the development has been master-planned as the southern edge of the City of London cluster that will gradually step down from the pinnacle of the Bishopsgate Tower when viewed from Waterloo with the gaps to be filled in over future property cycles.

Losing this inquiry could completely jeopardise future tall building development along the southern edge by setting a precedent whilst creating a chilling effect for developers and concentrating building in the core or the northern fringe along the likes of Old Street, Liverpool Street and Ropemaker Place where it does not have the same visual impact on the Tower of London or the cityscape in general when viewed from the Thames.

This effect that tall buildings have had on the Tower of London has moved up the political ladder lately following concern from UNESCO that the Tower is "endangered" thanks to a backdrop of skyscrapers and may also be playing on Kelly's mind although it would be ironic that the Labour Government listens to the United Nations about this whilst ignoring international opinion on a wide range of other subjects.

It will however, not affect already approved buildings, even if they fly in the face of findings against 20 Fenchurch Street. They are green-lighted and there isn't much the government can do about the decisions made by a previous minister.

The timescale of the public inquiry will be about 18 months in total so construction won't be able to start until the middle of 2008 if it does get the thumbs up. This shouldn't be too much of a bother for Land Securities as they have a tower on site they need to demolish first but if they don't get approval it will be an expensive return to the drawing board and a knock in confidence for other city developers.

Article Related buildings:

20 Fenchurch Street

20 Fenchurch Street
20 Fenchurch Street

20 Fenchurch Street
St Pauls Cathedral

St Pauls Cathedral
20 Fenchurch Street London
20 Fenchurch Street London