It’s been drawn to my attention that BT has filed a planning application to make changes to the BT Tower that will strip it of the antennas that occupy the upper third of the main tower.

The company argues that they are no longer in use, and their location makes maintenance for purely cosmetic reasons increasingly difficult. The bolts holding the antennas in place are also coming loose, and while the danger of falling nuts and bolts is serious, there is also the risk of antennas dropping off the building.

Although the tower itself is listed, they note in the application that, contrary to popular belief, the antennas themselves are not. However, the impact of their removal on the tower’s appearance necessitates a planning request. The proposals include the erection of scaffolding around the upper structure and the gradual and systematic recovery of the horn and dish aerials – to be completed by the end of the year.

Some photos of the current/after impact on the tower are provided in the application and from a distance, the difference is almost invisible in the photo, but I think it is being generous as when you get up close, there is no doubt that the current cluttered industrial appearance will be drastically changed.

Some may prefer the cleaner lines that the changes will deliver, but I can’t help thinking that it will look strangely naked. Not just because I know there should be something there, but because the change from the uniform design of the round tower below to thin core and plates just looks “wrong”.

The antennas are not a static element of the tower design and have changed many times since it was built, so if the antennas were to be replaced with fakes, which decade would you choose to reproduce?

Personally, I might compromise by installing a façade around the plates to maintain the appearance of the lower core to the upper floors.

Then again, I bet those open-air plates would make great roof gardens!

The main planning document is here (pdf file), which includes a lot of very interesting diagrams and history about the tower’s construction in the 1960s.


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  1. Local Resident says:

    It does not look “wrong”: it looks *different*.

  2. M@ says:

    Oo, I like the naked look. Very ‘sonic screwdriver’.

  3. Given the scaffolding currently around the Tower, I’d say that the work has already started…

  4. Al says:

    Ah i’m glad you gave this a better read than i had time to!

    Looks like it’s going to split opinion this one, but i quite agree with you Ian – it would look all wrong – but there again perhaps only because it’s what we’re used to. And you can understand their reasons. I wonder how much time they actually gave to installing fake dishes up there!
    Also, as they’ve apparently not been used since 1999 it’s interesting how they’re suddenly getting the work done now before the whole world’s VIPs will be here next year wanting to be taken somewhere fancy for dinner! 🙂

    @Nick took this pic yesterday seems that no work has started on the actual dishes yet yet. From the plans it sounds like there’s some serious work to go on before the removal can start…


    ps. been a reader for a while Ian – great blog. Nice to contribute something back for a change!

  5. Al says:

    In fact M@, i’m not so sure about a sonic screwdriver… this is what it looks like to me!

  6. JB says:

    If work has started already Nick then that BT are commiting a criminal offence.

    • IanVisits says:

      Nope – you can apply for retrospective planning permission, which has already been granted for the scaffolding works.

  7. JB says:

    Ian – planning permission and listed building consent are different. Starting work with planning approval is not a criminal offence, starting work without listed building consent is a criminal offence, potentially punishable by unlimited fine or imprisonment – the latter is unfortunately rare and the fines are generally low. That said, the application linked to appears to have been granted in April so BT are ok on this one and I withdraw the comment above – I thought it was a current application.

  8. Lara says:

    M@ – agreed! :-). I think Al wins though, that is an ace photo!

    I really like the look of the tower without the dishes and change isn’t always bad. And as Ian says a sets of roof gardens would be a wonderful spot for a cocktail or two.

    On a side note, the boyfriend and I have applied for Open House tickets for the tower this year. I REALLY hope we get some tickets!

  9. Lara says:

    You beat the Evening Standard. Feature about this in today’s issue.

  10. Pete of London says:

    I’m fairly sure there’s fewer dishes up there this morning.

    Comparing a photo from today to one I took a few months ago, it certainly looks the case (although they were taken from different angles). If so, that’s pretty fast working.

  11. Al says:

    @Pete – i’m sure it was the angle, there’ll be a lot a scaffolding when they start to go (as described in the documents) and when they do go they’ll go together.

  12. I pass the tower about twice a week and from passing it yesterday there are quite a few dishes that have already gone (most of the lower tier) and it’s starting to look naked now!

  13. Alex says:

    Save the aerias! If they have to remove anything it should be the telescreen all around the top. How BT got permission for that is insane!

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