In a letter seen by AJ sent yesterday (August 31) by the Secretary of State to Kate Howe, former long-time MP for Vauxhall and now a Baroness in the House of Lords, Clark confirmed that a public inquiry would soon take place.
Howe, along with current Vauxhall Representative Florence Ishalumi, had lobbied Clark to call for the controversial proposal, which would include the demolition of the ITV studios located on the prominent 2.5-acre site.
A separate letter sent by Clark’s administration to Lambeth Council stated that he was particularly concerned about the heritage monuments of the making plan and whether aspects including ‘size and mass’ were consistent with the government’s planning policy on the preservation and enhancement of the historic environment.
The letter also said that a public inquiry would examine whether the proposal was in line with the local development plan and other matters.
Veteran activist Michael Ball of the Waterloo Community Development Group (WCDG) applauded Clark’s decision and called on developer Mitsubishi Estates to rethink its approach.
“Even though a lot of government is effectively shutting down, Greg Clark has proven he is not a zombie,” Paul said. The Japanese giant Mitsubishi should be ashamed of itself for proposing such ugly buildings in one of London’s most prominent riverside locations.
Instead of modifying the existing ITV tower, they prefer to dump thousands of tons of embodied carbon into the atmosphere by dredging and replace it with two speculative office towers.
“Construction of the new building will produce 107,000 tons of CO2 today, dwarfing the 14,000 tons released if the existing ‘inefficient’ building is used for the next 60 years.”
The scheme, known as 72 Upper Ground, is the second high-profile demolition-based scheme that has been sent into public investigation by the government in recent months. In June, Clark’s predecessor, Michael Gove, summoned Belbrau & Co.’s plans to M&S Oxford Street over concerns about heritage and embodied carbon.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan refused to interfere with either project before the Secretary of State’s decisions were made, with those two planning decisions delegated to Deputy Mayor Jules Pipe. GLA officers praised the design quality of the Make scheme and said it was ‘designed to be sympathetic to its historic neighbours’.
The proposal will replace the London Television Center on the top floor with a 25-storey office tower, which will connect to two 14- and six-story buildings. The mixed-use scheme, which the developer says targets net zero carbon in operation along with a premium BREEAM rating, has a target completion date of 2026.
It was approved by Lambeth Council in March but halted in April by Michael Gove via a so-called Article 31 notice, which temporarily halted demolition while ministers consider whether to subpoena the application.
Social enterprise Coin Street Community Builders has joined WCDG to advocate for a public investigation and more More than 4,000 people signed a petition, SOS: Save our South Bank, which originally called on Lambeth Council to reject the plans.
The Twentieth Century Society also wrote to Clark to express its opposition to the proposal, which it said would be an “over-development” of the site. She said the scheme would “significantly harm” the preparation of the National Theater at Denys Lasdun’s Grade II* and Grade II listed IBM building, and would have a “very detrimental effect on the special character and appearance of the river site”.
Legal counsel Historic England also concluded that the project would damage nearby listed buildings.
Its spokesperson told AJ last week that it is concerned about the height and bulk of the new buildings and the particular damage to the ‘Rubel Street Conservation Area with primarily Georgian architecture, and significant river views of the Grade II, Grade I listed IBM building. Listed Somerset House and Grade II* National Theatre.
In response to Clarke’s decision, a Mitsubishi Estate London spokesperson and development director CO-RE said they remain “fully committed” to the new construction, which they said has the support of “local youth creative groups, planning officials, members of the Lambeth Council and the London Authority.”
They added: “We are clearly very disappointed that the start of construction will be delayed with the creation of thousands of jobs delayed and we hope that this process will move forward quickly.
The current site is a closed idle tower in a part of the south bank that is in dire need of investment. We look forward to showing the Planning Inspector how our proposals will respect the local heritage of the South Bank, which has undergone extensive review by Historic England and others, and will enhance the site and transform it into an open and welcoming building that prioritizes high-quality workspace and the provision of new arts, green public spaces.
’72 The Upper Ground will bring investment, more than 4,000 new jobs, and new workspace to one of London’s most popular destinations. Crucially, it will benefit the local community with London Studios, which will provide 40,000 square feet of affordable space tailored to the needs of the emerging creative industries in Lambeth.
This includes new cultural venues with rehearsal space, a gallery, exhibition spaces and soundproofed studios, along with new riverside cafes and restaurants.