17 July 2019
Author: Emily Knowles, Associate, Planning
On 15 July 2019 the Mayor of London directed the City to refuse an application for The Tulip building, which at 305.3 metres would have been the tallest structure in the City. The planning proposal for this 12-storey glass bubble, with a viewing gallery, restaurants and bars, education/ community facility, retail and a public roof garden was approved by the City of London’s Planning and Transportation Committee by 18 – 7 on 2 April 2019.
The report submitted to Committee recognised that the case was “very finely balanced” and noted in particular the “local and wider impacts and…less than substantial harm to the World Heritage Site” (being the Tower of London). At this time major concerns were expressed by Historic England. The proposal was also contrary to the current Development Plan. However the report concluded that the public benefits of the proposal outweigh the priority to be given to the Development Plan and recommended that approval be granted.
Pursuant to article 6 of the Town and Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order (2008) the Mayor has the power to direct a local planning authority to refuse an application if he considers it contrary (or prejudicial) to the spatial development strategy or otherwise contrary to good strategic planning in Greater London. The Mayor in his letter to the Committee refused the proposal as it would not constitute the high standard of design required for a tall building in the proposed location; would compromise the ability to appreciate the outstanding universal value of the Tower of London World Heritage Site and cause harm to the historic environment; would compromise the wider skyline and strategic views and surrounding public space; and would not provide sufficient cycle parking. He also found that the public benefits of the scheme were limited. The Mayor agreed with the Committee that the harm to the Tower of London (and numerous other heritage assets and their setting) would be “less than substantial” but would be at the upper limit of this range and the public benefit would not outweigh the harm identified.
The decision of the Mayor to refuse permission for what would have arguably been an iconic building is an important reminder to developers and all those in the planning world that while London is striving to become an innovative and forward-thinking city in terms of its architecture, such goals will not be allowed to succeed at the expense of the important heritage and historic fabric of the city and the ability of those living and working in the city to lead a healthy life. The focus of the Mayor on heritage concerns and the importance of good public realm, pedestrian movement and cycle provision should serve as a reminder to developers looking to submit major planning applications that their proposals should not seek to diminish the importance of basic planning principles.
This article is for general awareness only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this page was first published.
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