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.

(c) DBOX for Foster + Partners

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.

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9 comments
  1. D says:

    Could also consider the amount of carbon spent in producing this building that would only be of a limited single use.

    • ianVisits says:

      A lot of things were considered and the article is only a summary of the key elements of the decision. If you want to read the full 210-page report, it’s linked to in the article.

  2. Dan Coleman says:

    It was a fairly sketchy business case to begin with. That report is hopefully the nail in the tulip.

  3. JP says:

    It doesn’t smell as sweet as some tulips, does it?
    The fact that the report covered lots of outcomes rekindled my faith in planning departments, somehow.
    Shelve the plans and bring em back out when we’ve teraformed Mars. Might work there.

  4. JW says:

    Seems odd for the proponent to want to build the Tulip, a vanity viewing tower whose viewing levels do not rise above the hight of adjacent present and proposed office towers due to CAA height restrictions. If the tower were permitted to be higher, or sited elsewhere with 360 degree panoramic views, this would make much more sense both for the public and the proponent. One assumes it must be essential for the proponent that the tower be located within the boundaries of the City of London and on a site which the proponent already owns. It is also unclear if the proponent was offering some form of community benefit or financial incentive as part of the proposal, such as constructing affordable housing or a contribution to public transport improvements, which may have influenced the City authorities or others.

    Its also odd that the report against the viewing tower uses justifications of visual impact on the Tower of London UNESCO/World Heritage site, when adjacent there is a newly constructed tower roughly equally high and visually far more bulky, and a couple more towers of 1,000ft or so to be constructed close by in the next few years.

  5. Tuzie Morrison says:

    I am really pleased that this has been rejected. It looks like a Covid swab amongst other things.
    The limited use-as a viewing platform and position in the City would be a waste of resources and would soon be surrounded by other high rises blocking it in. The quality of architectural design is deteriorating, spoiling the skyline in the City and many look like vanity projects or ‘legacy’.
    There are several viewing points in the City which are good, some outside with gardens and others like the enclosed top floor of the ‘Walkie Talkie’ – a hideous building but the view is good.
    The Shard on the other side of the river provides stunning views-how many do we need?

  6. Andrew Inglis says:

    London is a horizontal city not a vertical one . Towers of great height look incongruous in London . The City of London is not Manhattan .Architects should focus on building much-needed ,truly affordable homes .

  7. Lizebeth says:

    Yay.

  8. ADC says:

    Never expected that. As the economy is struggling and the City too to get much-needed investments and keep its top financial spot in the world, the last you wanted is such a narrowminded view, rejecting millions of pounds that could revive the economy and tourism for years to come and give an outstanding landmark for London, just because of a little, ridiculous visual intrusion (that doesn’t even exist, check!). Obviously, all the above benefits have not been considered at all, and now the government struggles and complains because of a slow resurgence of the economy. These are/were great missed opportunities. Let’s not refuse the plans of something similar or greater in future.

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