Campaigners make final plea to block South Bank development that will ‘obliterate’ views

By Robert Firth, Local Democracy Reporter

A 25-floor office block developers want to build on the South Bank will be like a “great crouching toad on the riverbank,” campaigners have warned, as they made their final plea for housing secretary Michael Gove to block the plans.

The offices, planned on the former ITV studio site, will “obliterate” views of the Grade-II listed National Theatre, leave neighbours living in darkness and risk creating empty offices of the future, Michael Ball, from Save Our South Bank said in his closing statement to a planning inquiry yesterday.

Lambeth council approved the development by Mitsubishi Estate London and CO-RE at a meeting in March 2022.

CGI of planned development from South Bank (Picture: Make Architects)

But Mr Gove ordered a public inquiry into the plans following opposition from campaigners, Labour MP Florence Eshalomi and South Bank councillors.

A planning inspector will announce a decision on the development’s future on behalf of Mr Gove in the coming months.

Speaking to a packed room on the final day of the public inquiry in Southwark on Wednesday, Mr Ball said: “[It will be] a great crouching toad on the riverbank.

“The proposed northern riverside tall building doesn’t obscure so much as obliterate any view of the landmark National Theatre.

“The height, bulk and scale of the proposed riverside tall buildings would dwarf the delicate spires of Whitehall Court.

“From the Blackfriars Bridge viewing point, the view of the National Theatre is obliterated. To be reduced from an architectural masterpiece to a ribbon of buildings is a heavy declension.”

Mr Ball went on to question whether 100,000sqft of office space in one of the development’s tall buildings could be filled.

He added that he remained unconvinced by the council’s business case for the workspace, claiming its evidence was two years old.

Matthew Reed KC, representing Lambeth council, rejected claims that the development was ugly.

In his closing statement for the council, he said: “The proposed scheme is beautiful. Those attributes show this scheme is grounded in a thorough grounding of context.

“The proposals do not, like some schemes using large palettes of primary colour, distract.”

Rupert Warren KC, representing the developers, said the building would be a positive addition to the South Bank.

In his closing statement, he said: “All the buildings between the site and Jubilee Gardens share a sense of progressiveness, groundbreaking design quality, and each has its own sense of identity.”

ITV’s former studios at 72 Upper Ground would be bulldozed and replaced with offices, restaurants, shops and a new gallery under the developers’ plans for the site.

Pictured top: A view of the planned South Bank development from Waterloo Bridge (Picture: Make Architects)

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