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    Aerial view of The Tulip - © DBOX for Foster + Partners

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    Atrium looking down - © DBOX for Foster + Partners

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    The Tulip cluster at dusk - © DBOX for Foster + Partners

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    The Tulip education room with children - © DBOX for Foster + Partners

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    The Tulip gondola - © DBOX for Foster + Partners

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    The Tulip skybridge at dusk - © DBOX for Foster + Partners


City of London approves 'Tulip' tower despite mayor's heritage and design objections

Mark Wilding
04 Apr 2019

Plans for what would be the second tallest building in western Europe have been approved by the City of London but must still pass muster with mayor Sadiq Khan, who has raised serious concerns about the scheme's design and its impact on the nearby Tower of London.

Councillors at the City of London Corporation voted 18 to seven in favour of approving plans for ‘The Tulip’, which would stand 305 metres tall at 20 Bury Street, next to 30 St Mary Axe, commonly known as the Gherkin. The planning application was submitted in November last year.

Designed by architects Foster & Partners, the development features a viewing platform with rotating pods, a restaurant and sky bar, and rooftop terrace. J Safra Group, which is developing the project, said 40,000 school children would be granted free access to the viewing platform every year.

City of London chief planning officer Annie Hampson advised that the planning issues to be considered were "very finely balanced".

The proposed scheme was "not considered to be in compliance with the development plan" due to harm to the nearby Tower of London world heritage site, she said, but added that "virtually no major development proposal is in complete compliance with all policies".

Hampson said the proposed development would create "a new iconic building" and a "new and significant visitor attraction in London". She also noted that the provision of an educational facility for state school children was "a significant benefit of the proposal".

Recommending approval, she said she had given "very considerable importance and weight to the desirability of preserving the setting of the Tower of London" but felt "the public benefits of the proposal nevertheless outweigh the priority given to the development plan and other material considerations against the proposals".

Planning conditions included limits on vehicle deliveries, the provision of facilities with disabled access, concessions for children, students and senior citizens, and security measures.

Approval of the plans must now be granted by London mayor Sadiq Khan, who must decide within 14 days whether to ‘call in’ the application and hold public hearings. The decision could also be called in by the secretary of state.

During consultation on the application, the Greater London Authority (GLA) raised a number of concerns about the scheme and advised that the mayor did not consider the plans compliant with either the current or emerging London Plan.

In a letter to the City of London, the GLA advised that the development would "cause harm to the historic environment", "fails to provide free to enter publicly accessible viewing areas", would "cause harm to strategic views", and would result in a "poor quality, unwelcoming, unnecessarily confined pedestrian environment".

Additionally, the GLA raised "significant concerns" about the building’s design. "The height is unjustified and the design and the introduction of [a] significant expanse of solid and inactive building frontage would appear incongruous," they said.

A spokesman for Sadiq Khan said: "The application will be referred to the mayor of London under the rules of the planning process and he will make a decision on it in due course."

Government heritage advisor Historic England also objected to the application on the basis of potential harm to views of the Tower of London.

In July last year, the City of London approved plans for a 56-storey skyscraper despite concerns about the impact on views of St Paul's Cathedral.

This story was first published on World Architecture News' sister website, Planning Resource

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