Gove postpones decision on Make’s South Bank tower plans

The Secretary of State at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) had been expected to announce his decision today on the huge Thamesside development, which was called in a year ago by one of Gove’s predecessors, Greg Clark.

Gove has now said he needs another two months to consider the outcome of the public inquiry into the development and has given himself until 6 October 2023 to come to a conclusion.

The 25-storey office project, known as 72 Upper Ground, was approved by Lambeth Council in March last year, despite receiving more than 260 objections, including from two local councillors and the local MP.

A month later it was halted by Gove during his first stint as head of DLUHC by means of a so-called Article 31 notice and subsequently went to inquiry following pressure from local groups and heritage campaigners.

Kate Hoey, the former longstanding MP for Vauxhall, along with the area’s current MP, Florence Eshalomi, had lobbied the government to call in the proposal, which involves the demolition of the existing ITV studios on the prominent 1ha site.

Make’s proposals feature two towers, standing at 14 and 25 storeys, as well as a six-storey connecting podium. If approved, the scheme would provide 79,000m2 of office and associated commercial space as well as 7,000m2 of cultural space and up to 4,000m2 of space for shops, cafés and bars.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan had declined to intervene in the project and the planning decision was delegated to deputy mayor Jules Pipe. Greater London Authority (GLA) officers had praised the design quality of the Make scheme and said it had been ‘designed to be sympathetic to its historic neighbours’.

However, in a separate letter to the call-in notice, Clark’s department had written to Lambeth Council about the heritage implications of the Make scheme and whether certain aspects, including its ‘scale and massing’, were consistent with government planning policy on conserving and enhancing the historic environment.

Source:Make Architects

View along Queen’s Walk at National Theatre

The Twentieth Century Society had also contacted Clark to express its objection to the proposal, which it said would be an ‘over-development’ of the site. It said the scheme would ‘significantly harm’ the setting of Denys Lasdun’s Grade II*-listed National Theatre and Grade II-listed IBM Building, and have ‘a profoundly detrimental effect on the special character and appearance of the riverfront site’.

Statutory consultee Historic England had concluded that the project would harm nearby listed buildings.

Its spokesperson told the AJ last year it was concerned about the height and bulk of the new buildings and particular harm to the Roupell Street Conservation Area, with its mainly Georgian architecture, and to important river views of the Grade II-listed IBM Building, Grade I-listed Somerset House and Grade II*-listed National Theatre.

Responding to the original decision to call in the project last September, a spokesperson for developer 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 young creative groups, planning officers, Lambeth councillors and the GLA’.

They had added: ‘We are obviously very disappointed that the start of construction will be delayed with the creation of thousands of jobs postponed and hope this process moves forward quickly.’

Make has been contacted for comment.