Plans to build a tall viewing tower in the City of London, called the Tulip, although ruder names exist, have been blocked by Housing Minister Christopher Pincher.
The tall tower had been planned as a viewing platform to sit next to the Gherkin, which is owned by the same company, and would have had a concrete spine taking people to the bud at the top, with viewing floors and a series of outside glass lifts.
Although the City of London granted planning permission in April 2019, it was called in by the Mayor’s office which then rejected permission. An appeal resulted in a public consultation for a planning inspector to report their findings.
Last month, The Telegraph reported that the government seemed minded to approve the planning appeal, but based on the information in the inspector’s report which was published today, the Housing Minister Christopher Pincher agreed with the report and has rejected the appeal.
Although much of the report looks at the wider visual impact, it seems that there was a lot of concern given to the impact of The Tulip as seen from the other side of the Tower London, especially that thanks to its unusual shape it would stand out from the cluster of office blocks that it would sit within.
The loss of ground space around the Gherkin thanks to the arrival of the tower was also considered to be a notable problem for the area.
The report also suggested that while the tower was architecturally and engineering wise a good design, it was not outstanding, with a number of design compromises to fit it into the space. The report said that the tower “would be a muddle of architectural ideas and would be compromised and that the unresolved principles behind the design would mean that in many regards it would fall between two stools.”
There was significant concern about the commercial viability of the Tulip, as it can serve only one function. Also, in relation to the rest of the City of London, the economic benefit was marginal and unlikely to be sufficient to overcome the other planning concerns.
With limited capacity, the report was also worried that the design could not be repurposed into something else, as a normal office building could, and that if the tower were to be a commercial failure, it “would leave either an unmaintained eyesore or a large public liability, and this counts heavily against its design quality”
In the end, the appeal was rejected, and the Tulip will not loom over London.
The developer could still appeal the decision, but the 210-page report is comprehensive in demolishing the arguments put forward for the tower, and the developer would likely struggle to overcome them.
Updated – put the wrong Minister’s name who was responsible for the decision.