The public inquiry into the hugely controversial 72 Upper Ground commercial office development on London’s Southbank began this week, with C20 joining local campaigners in condemning the ‘greedy’ scheme and urging developers to ‘stop demolishing youthful concrete towers at whim’.
During the opening statements, the Southbank stretch of the River Thames was described ‘one of the worlds most recognisable urban vistas’, containing ‘the most important collection of modernist buildings in the country’ – no less than four listed postwar buildings and bridges.
C20 has strongly objected to the proposals and successfully lobbied the Secretary of State (at the time, Greg Clarke MP) to call-in the application. Patrick Dillon – architect and noted authority on the National Theatre – will be representing the Society at the inquiry next week, providing evidence as an expert witness for the Save Our Southbank campaign on the enormous heritage impact of the proposals.
Follow the Inquiry
Lobbying the Secretary of State to intervene
C20 Society wrote to the Secretary of State in August 2022, strongly objecting to the proposed development at 72 Upper Ground on London’s South Bank, currently the location of the former London Television Centre / ITV Studios. Nicknamed ‘the slab’ by former C20 Chairman, Sir Simon Jenkins, the scheme by Make Architects consists of two interconnected office towers of 14 and 25 storeys, which have been estimated to be 225% larger than the existing buildings on the site – providing nearly 1 million sqft of commercial space, yet no housing (affordable or otherwise).
This came after the disappointing news that Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, refused to intervene and call-in the plans that were initially approved by Lambeth Council in March 2022. Campaigners, led by the Coin Street Community Group, Save Our Southbank and C20, lobbied the Secretary of State to order a full public inquiry, which was granted in September.
C20 objects to the plans on the basis that the proposed new buildings would cause significantly harm to the neighbouring listed twentieth century buildings – the National Theatre (1969-76 – Grade II) and IBM Building (1979-84 – Grade II*), both by architect Denys Lasdun, Waterloo Bridge by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (1939-45 – Grade II*) and the Royal Festival Hall by LCC Architect’s Department (1949-51 – Grade I). It would also have a profoundly detrimental effect on the special character and appearance of the riverfront site, which is both a designated conservation area and positive contributor to strategic London views.
Public and community support
London’s South Bank is home to some of the country’s finest post-war buildings and public spaces, and its heritage significance is recognised in numerous listings and in its designation as a conservation area. As outlined in the designation report for the conservation area (1982): “it is important that care is taken to ensure sensitive changes to existing buildings and spaces”.
The Society considers that the proposals would be an over-development of a site within a sensitive historic environment. The development’s substantial size and heavy, riverfront-loaded massing would impact on close views of post-war listed buildings from the Queen’s Walk and would impede wide views, particularly of the Grade II* National Theatre from Blackfriars Bridge to the east. We have encouraged the applicant to revise the design to substantially reduce the building’s height and riverfront front massing.
More than 4,000 members of the public have already signed the ‘Save our South Bank’ petition, with objections also received from Florence Eshalomi, the Labour MP for Vauxhall, and Marina Ahmad, the Labour London Assembly member for the area. Meanwhile, Historic England have warned the development would be harmful to strategic views of St Paul’s Cathedral and Somerset House, as well as the National Theatre and the IBM building, all of which are nationally listed.