Michael Gove approves ‘derided’ £400m development on London’s South Bank | Planning policy
A £400m office complex nicknamed “the Slab” has been given the go-ahead to replace ITV’s former headquarters on London’s South Bank despite fierce opposition from green campaigners and modernist architecture fans.
Opponents said the proposals of the 72 Upper Ground scheme would generate more carbon emissions in its construction than if the 4,000 office workers it is designed to house were to drive in from Surrey for 30 years.
The former communities secretary, Greg Clark, called for an inquiry into the development in 2020 despite the planning committee of the London borough of Lambeth giving the development the go-ahead with approval backed by London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan.
Demolition of the current building was paused in April 2022 by the housing secretary, Michael Gove, while ministers considered whether to call in the application.
The inquiry came hot on the heels of a probe into Marks & Spencer’s plans to raze and redevelop its Marble Arch store on London’s Oxford Street, which Gove blocked – partly on the basis of the carbon impact of redevelopment. M&S is taking legal action against the decision.
The Twentieth Century Society, which campaigns for the protection of modern buildings such as the nearby National Theatre and IBM building, both designed by architect Denys Lasdun, said the move to approve 72 Upper Ground “gives the go-ahead to a universally derided development”.
The society said the scheme would “cause irreversible damage to the unique setting, heritage and dynamism of London’s South Bank. It will overshadow the most important collection of modernist buildings in the country, and sets a dangerous precedent for overdevelopment in sensitive sites. Once again, the Thames has been sold down the river.”
Gove said he had approved the development given the “the employment generating opportunities” for the local area in both the construction and operation of the building as well as the “placemaking benefits” including the provision of “affordable creative workspace”.
While Gove said he did not believe the development would be attractive and “the proposal would not provide a positive contribution to the townscape of the South Bank”, he suggested the harm to designated heritage assets including the National Theatre, the IBM building, Somerset House and the South Bank conservation area would be “less than substantial”.
Shinichi Kagitomi, the chief executive of Mitsubishi Estate London and Stephen Black, the director at the developers CO—RE, welcomed approval of what they called “transformational plans” for the South Bank.
The developers have said the scheme, which includes a 26-storey tower linked to a 13-storey block, was designed to “the highest standards in terms of sustainability” and that it was difficult to reuse the existing building for office space.
They said: “72 Upper Ground represents a £700m investment in the UK, creating over 4,000 new jobs, and vital new workspace that prioritises sustainability and wellbeing. Crucially, it will benefit the local community through the London Studios, which will provide 40,000 sq ft net of affordable workspace that is tailored to the needs of Lambeth’s emerging creative industries.
“This includes new cultural venues that have rehearsal space, gallery and presentation spaces and studios, alongside new public spaces with river facing cafes and restaurants.”