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English Heritage- the enemy within?

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Wednesday 6 November 2002 12.17pm
As we know, English Heritage are opposing the new tower at London Bridge, despite the fact that the development will bring HUGE economic benefits to SE1. I have just received an email from EH (see below). In particular, they seem to be questioning the fact that the local community does not support the development. Yet, of those local residents who have entered an on-line poll and who heard of the project, the overwhelming majority support it (cf survey on Sure, on-line surveys are not always representative. But EH's second argument, that the tower is a potential visual eye-sore, is simply bizarre, and seems to come from the Prince Charles school of architectural ignorance. The fact that they are paid to peddle such ingorant and conservative views at the taxpayers' expence is truly galling. As a local resident, I emphatically DO NOT want to have my views represented by this public body. This unelected quango is clearly unable or unwilling to represent the true views of those who are most likely to benefit from the scheme. Why not email them your views: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

Here is an extract from EH's email to me:

...The London Bridge Tower proposal would harm the protected Strategic Views of St Paul's Cathedral, from Kenwood and Parliament Hill Fields, would harm the Tower of London World Heritage site, would harm the setting of numerous listed buildings and conservation areas in North Southwark and is contrary to Southwark's adopted Unitary Development Plan. English Heritage would be failing in its duty if it did not raise these concerns and object to the proposal.

We are of course mindful of the benefits of investment and job creation but this must not be at any price. The harm to the historic environment is a matter which should be fully considered, balanced against all other relevant issues, at a public inquiry.

I am not at all sure that the local community does support this proposal. Unsurprisingly views differ locally, as they do nationally, as to the merits of this proposal.

I would also stress that English Heritage does not take decisions to oppose developments lightly. Our decision to seek a public inquiry on London Bridge Tower was taken after careful consideration of the issues and the policy context. On this occasion the Secretary of State has agreed with our judgement that the degree of harm to the historic environment justifies examination of the issues at a public inquiry.

Nicholas Antram
Assistant Regional Director
Kensington & South London Team

English Heritage
Telephone 020 7973 3000
Facsimile 020 7973 3001
Tuesday 19 November 2002 6.33pm
MM relays: "the fact that the development will bring HUGE economic benefits to SE1"

... up to a point, Lord Copper. These could be limited benefits to the existing residents/employees of the area as SE1 becomes yet further an offshoot of the City and existing retailers/small businesses are priced out of the area.

... it could also bring potentially huge congestion problems to the already overstretched London Bridge station - unless this scheme is completely tied into a coherent redevelopment of the whole station - which is not guaranteed by the planning application that Southwark have approved.

"EH's second argument, that the tower is a potential visual eye-sore, is simply bizarre,"

... I don't think EH are saying it is an eyesore of itself. I myself think that Piano is a fine architect - but is he as great as Christopher Wren that he should be allowed to determine the skyline for the next century?

It is good that someone recognises that St Paul's Cathedral is an immensely important symbol of London and (through the iconic pictures taken in the blitz) of Londoners struggle with adversity. This is a view held by many - regardless of whether they are Christians, holders of some other faith, agnostics, or atheists.

Strangely enough the developers of London Bridge Tower have not made pictures of their glass shard as the backdrop to the dome of the Cathedral so widely available. There needs to be a genuine debate about whether Londoners value views of our most important landmarks across the city, so that we avoid a repetition of the errors of the 1960s.
Tuesday 26 November 2002 7.26pm
English Heritage has not really highlighted the most important problem with the scheme, important that is to the local community.

Visually the scheme is enormous, far, far larger than any of the towers currently built around the station. But the problem with this is not so much the towering effect it will have on the area, and certainly not the impact, if any, that it will have on views of St Paul's. Rather it is the size of the development at ground level. Such a huge tower requires a huge footprint, which, judging from the very sketchy designs available at the moment, is very poorly designed and detailed. "Groundscrapers", buildings which sprawl over great areas at ground level, are a particular problem in London, where developers are given considerable powers over vast areas of land. They often blight them with great chunks of homogeneity in design and land use, so you end up with more of the same shops, more of the same boring glass design. Just look at what's going up around City Hall, huge canyons of more Starbucks and more arid glass.

It doesn't bode well for the future of Borough, which is characterised by its medieval street pattern and exciting mix of land use and styles. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge apologist for modern architecture. And Renzo Piano is a fantastic architect. I just think that the local community really needs to study the proposals with a hawk's eye, and watch over them carefully as they develop. We don't want to end up like the City, empty and windswept as soon as the office workers have gone home. New development here must be diverse and exciting.
Sunday 1 December 2002 5.33pm

The interesting thing about the Shard is that it does not do what you suggest. The tower itself sits on a very small area. It provides the opportunity for changes to the station concourse and bus station that should be significant improvements. But it will be the development of the station as a whole that will be the most important thing.
Tuesday 18 March 2003 3.46pm
Today's Standard (18 March 2003 ) reports that English Heritics are already beginning their lobbying to paint the shard tower at London bridge in the worst light. The public inquiry starts on 15 April, but the "no" lobby are already peddling the spurious arguments that the new tower at London Bridge "will ruin views of many landmarks including St Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London". Only if you live in Hampstead Garden Suburb, darling. The view from South London will still be magnificent and lets face it, anyone with any sense would much rather admire the view from the South bank of the river, as it is a car-free walk-way. The recent boon in tourist numbers on this route shows that the majority of sensible people share this "view" (pun intended).

The Heritics' press office also seem to be pleased with their soundbite that the shard will "put a spike through the heart of historic London" as they have regurgitated that cliche too, in the absence of any coherent argument. Thank God Red Ken and Southwark council are sticking up for us on this one. What is really galling, however, is that English Heritics are peddling their psuedo-survey which says that over three quarters of Londoners are opposed to any more sky-scrapers in the city, and that a similar number think the views of St Paul's should be protected. What a completely dishonest survey! I would like to see Mori do an audit of their methodology in getting to these figures. Of course any self-respecting person would say that the views of St Paul's should be protected. But who says that this tower would be a bad thing for the view?
Tuesday 18 March 2003 4.18pm
i seem to remember people violently opposed to the london eye due to its scale in relation to the house of its an all too rare shining example of a fantastic modern structure that is hugely popular with londoners and visitors alike. more visionaries please!...and isnt the swiss:re building in the city an amazing addition to the all too predictable city skyline?

does anyone have any decent reference to the scheme's details?

Tuesday 18 March 2003 4.44pm
English Heritage's survey was real not pseudo.

Unfortunately for MM, it was actually conducted for EH by MORI. The survey "Public Attitudes to Tall Buildings In Cities" is on the EH website at

The new joint English Heritage - CABE (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) guidance on tall buildings is at

Oh, and by the way the main protected view is from Primrose Hill, not Hampstead Heath. It has plenty of posh users from Belsize Park and poseurs from Camden Town, but there are still a large number of what class warrior MM might once have described as working class folk from nearby Camden estates who walk up to enjoy the views.

Post edited (18 Mar 03 17:31)
Tuesday 18 March 2003 5.11pm
yes I know its by mori that's why I said I would like them to audit their methodology, because I (and many others) believe it is bogus. But that aside, the real issue is: if mori had actually shown the plans to their target audience first, and then asked them "do you think this plan puts a spike through the heart of historic london?" the vast majority of people would have responded with derision. Hence, my original point. And with regards to class war, I really can do without North London ponces giving me a lesson in poverty. I live on the poorest estate in the UK, surrounded by levels of poverty that would make the armchair liberals of hampstead and highgate choke on their anti-war placards. I really can do without these north Londoners telling me that my view is going to be ruined, when I know for a fact that this redevelopment will make a major economic contribution to the regeneration of SE1.
Tuesday 18 March 2003 6.09pm
This "ponce" is from South London, worked for years in SE1, and has endured the regular experience of trying to assist an aged parent to Guys against the onslaught of the commuter hordes at London Bridge.

MM has still not said how this scheme of office space will deliver enormous economic benefits for the people of SE1. The financial services industries are transferring back office jobs to Mumbai, and the qualifications threshold now being imposed for remaining city jobs (even trading) is such that few locals will have obtained much from the secondary education options available to most people.

So the jobs for locals are likely to be confined (at least in the medium term) to the catering and retail sectors to support this dramatic increase in the daytime population. Some local training and employment may be secured through a planning obligation agreement, but I still suspect that most jobs available to locals (meaning people living in the area's estates, rather than those who bought while the area was cheap) will be paying little more than minimum wage.

I haven't got a settled view on the design merits of the Piano scheme. I just get an impression than Ken and Southwark are supporting it for all the wrong reasons - that it is a big landmark statement, and not doing a level headed assessment of advantages and disadvantages to the liveability of our city.

Tuesday 18 March 2003 9.36pm
The reason that a 60 storey tower is being proposed in our neck of the woods is that it can sit on top of a large transport interchange. i.e London Bridge. It's ethos, like every other tower, is to exist totally without consideration for the immediate neighbourhood. It will add nothing to the local economy.

Those who will occupy the tower are expected to commute in from outside, remain within the tower during working hours then commute home. This is completely alien to us in SE1 where we live,work,eat and drink in great restaurants,visit gallerys and theatres, shop at the market, and stroll down the river all without being tied to the constraints of timetables.

It is also a monument to conspicuous energy consumption, and such dinosaurs of the late 20th C sit uneasily in a 21st C sustainable living environment.

Of course if the developers threw in a 30m public swimming pool as planning gain then I might view it in a better light. Better still they could build some houses to enable those working in the tower to avoid commuting. ( I know it contains some residential, but not really in the price range of those who work for a living). Or how about a commitment to save Borough Market by insisting that the necessary redevelopment of London Bridge Station to build the Shard does not include the proposed viaduct.

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