In a letter seen by the AJ sent by the Secretary of State yesterday (August 31) to Kate Hoey, the longtime former MP for Vauxhall and now Baroness in the House of Lords, Clark confirmed that a public inquiry would be held shortly.
Hoey, along with current Vauxhall MP Florence Eshalomi, had been lobbying Clark to bring in the controversial proposal, which involves the demolition of existing ITV studios on the significant 2.5-acre site.
A separate letter sent by Clark’s department to Lambeth Council said it was particularly concerned about the heritage implications of the Make scheme and whether aspects such as its ‘scale and mass’ were compatible with the government’s planning policy on conservation and improvement of the historic environment.
The letter also said the public inquiry would consider whether or not the proposal was in line with the local development plan and other issues.
Veteran campaigner Michael Ball of the Waterloo Community Development Group (WCDG) welcomed Clark’s decision and called on developer Mitsubishi Estates to rethink its approach.
“Although much of the government was effectively shut down, Greg Clark proved he was no zombie,” Ball said. “The Japanese giant Mitsubishi should be ashamed of it for proposing such ugly buildings on one of London’s most important waterfront sites.
“Rather than retrofit the existing ITV tower, they prefer to release thousands of tonnes of embodied carbon into the atmosphere by bulldozing it and replacing it with two speculative office towers.
“Construction of the new build would emit 107,000 tonnes of CO2 right now, eclipsing the 14,000 tonnes released if the existing ‘inefficient’ building were used for the next 60 years.”
The scheme, known as 72 Upper Ground, is the second large-scale demolition-based scheme that has been subjected to a public inquiry by the government in recent months. In June, Clark’s predecessor, Michael Gove, brought in Oxford Street’s M&S plans from Pilbrow & Partners over concerns over heritage and embodied carbon.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan had declined to intervene in either project prior to the Secretary of State’s decisions, with both planning decisions being delegated to Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe. GLA officers had praised the design quality of the Make program and said it had been “designed to be sympathetic to its historic neighbors”.
The proposal would replace the London Television Center at Upper Ground with a 25-storey office tower, which would be connected to two 14-storey and 6-storey buildings. The mixed-use scheme, which the developer says aims for net zero carbon in operation with an outstanding BREEAM rating, has a target completion date of 2026.
View along Queen’s Walk at the National Theater
Source: Make Architects
It was approved by Lambeth Council in March but stopped by Michael Gove in April through a so-called Article 31 notice, which suspended demolition while ministers considered whether to call off the request .
WCDG had been joined by social enterprise Coin Street Community Builders to advocate for a public inquiry and more over 4,000 people have signed a petition, SOS: Save our South Bank, which originally called on Lambeth Council to reject the plans.
The Twentieth Century Society has also written to Clark expressing its objection to the proposal, which it says would be an “overdevelopment” of the site. He said the project would ‘significantly harm’ the setting of Denys Lasdun’s Grade II* listed National Theater and Grade II listed IBM Building, and have ‘a profoundly detrimental effect on the special character and appearance of the waterfront site’.
Statutory consultant Historic England had also concluded that the project would harm nearby listed buildings.
Its spokesman told the AJ last week that he was concerned about the height and clutter of the new buildings and the particular damage to “the Roupell Street conservation area with its predominantly Georgian architecture, and to the prominent river views of the Grade II listed IBM Building, Grade I Somerset House and Grade II* listed National Theatre.
Responding to Clark’s decision, a spokesman for Mitsubishi Estate London and development manager CO—RE said they remained “fully committed” to the new build, which they said had the support of “local groups young creatives, planning officers, councilors from Lambeth and the Greater Authority of London.’
They added: “We are obviously very disappointed that the start of construction is delayed with the creation of thousands of jobs postponed and hope that this process will move forward quickly”.
“The current site is a closed and inactive tower block in a part of the South Rim which is in desperate need of investment. We look forward to demonstrating to the Town Planning Inspector how our proposals will both respect the local heritage of the South Bank, which has been subject to extensive review by Historic England and others, and enhance and will transform the site into an open and welcoming building that favors quality workspaces and the provision of new artistic, cultural and green public spaces.
’72 Upper Ground will bring investment, over 4,000 new jobs and new workspaces to one of London’s most famous destinations. Crucially, this will benefit the local community through London Studios, which will provide 40,000 net square feet of affordable space tailored to the needs of Lambeth’s emerging creative industries.
“This includes new cultural venues with rehearsal spaces, galleries and presentation spaces and soundproof studios, as well as new riverside cafes and restaurants.”