London is about to get another viewing tower, although this time, it’s the reopening of a long-closed tower in Greenwich as part of a redevelopment of the building.

(c) Riverlow Group

The clock tower is a substantial landmark in Greenwich town centre. It was built in the 1930s for Greenwich Town Hall, and although the tower had a viewing gallery, it closed a very long time ago. The council moved out in 1972, and the building used for a university and offices, but it’s been empty since 2019.

Earlier this week, Greenwich council approved plans to convert the building into residential flats, and one of the conditions of the planning application is that the tower needs to be open for the public to visit for free.

However, it will only be open for free “on at least” four days each year.

While access will be free, the suggestion that it’ll be open only a handful of days a year is disappointing, especially compared to the requirements imposed on other viewing galleries and roof gardens, which are far more accessible to the public.

One peculiarity that stood out from the planning officer’s report is that the residential offering is slightly affected by the need to provide an isolated lift in the tower. If the tower has a dedicated lift, restricting public access to just four days a year seemed odd unless an unstated ambition is to open the tower more regularly for a charge and offer free access as a planning concession.

(c) Riverlow Group

The specific clause in the planning agreement states that “Members of the public shall be granted recreational access to the viewing gallery within clock tower free of charge on at least 4 occasions per year for the lifetime of the development.”

The Meridian House developer also has to show the council how it will publicise the open days, so there’s no risk of them just popping a small post-it note on the door.

Grumbles aside, one of the tower’s advantages is that it’s not in central London, so it offers a very different vista of the London skyline. Although roughly the same height as the Greenwich Observatory, it will offer a slightly wider range of views.

More details about the housing provision here.


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  1. John Harrison says:

    The requirement does not seem to specify for how long a period it should be open for, so in theory they could open it for 5 minutes only on the four days.

    • ianVisits says:

      The requirement to be open for at least four days would struggle to argue for 5 minutes a day than “a day”, aka, something closer to 8 hours.

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