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Culture space cut back in latest Berkeley Homes plan for Potters Fields coach park

London SE1 website team

The latest designs for the proposed redevelopment of the Potters Fields coach park next to Tower Bridge have been unveiled by Berkeley Homes.

Potters Fields coach park
An image of the 2008 proposals. In the latest designs a lighter coloured brick is used on the building facing the river

Eighteen months after Squire and Partners' scheme for the prime riverside brownfield site was unveiled, Berkeley Homes has held a public exhibition of the revised proposals.

The Squire proposal replaces the controversial Ian Ritchie scheme of eight cylindrical residental towers which was opposed by Southwark Council but endorsed by then deputy prime minister John Prescott.

The 2008 Squire proposal comprised 374 homes including 74 'affordable' homes. This has been reduced to 356 homes for market sale with 46 'affordable' homes to be provided on a separate parcel of land owned by the City of London Corporation facing Tower Bridge Road.

The much-vaunted 'cultural' space has also been cut back in size from 8000 square metres in the 2008 scheme to just 6554 square metres in the latest proposal.

An occupant for the cultural space has yet to be named. Theatre collective Shunt, Sportsworld & British Sport Museum and the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum were all in the running to take on the space.

The cultural space will have its main entrance from Potters Fields Park facing the river, with a 'dramatic' flight of stairs leading to the double-height basement.

The 2008 proposals, which were criticised for their dark appearance, have been tweaked to use a lighter coloured brick.

As with the 2008 proposals, a new street is to be created stretching from Queen Elizabeth Street to the foot of Tower Bridge, providing new views and easy access to Shad Thames. This will include the removal of the kiosk currently occupied by the Bubble Cafe.

The coach park site has a tortuous planning and legal history, with land ownership shared between Berkeley Homes and Southwark Council.

Four years ago the Southwark Liberal Democrat manifesto included a pledge to lead "the development of the vacant site between Potters Fields Park and Tower Bridge to include a nationally and internationally-recognised centre for arts and culture". This time the commitment was simply to "ensure a sympathetic development".

Now that the Liberal Democrats have lost power in Southwark, it remains to be seen what attitude the incoming Labour administration will take to the latest proposals for this key riverside site.

Whilst design work has continued on the Berkeley Homes scheme, this spring the Museum of London Archaeological Service has carried out excavations on the coach park site.

A report published on the Mayor of London's website last week revealed that Bronze Age artifacts have been found at the coach park.

The Mayor had hoped to use the combined Potters Fields Park and coach park site to host the FIFA Fan Fest during next month's football World Cup but has been forced to seek alternative locations.

A planning application is expected to be submitted this summer.

• The Berkeley Homes public exhibition of plans for One Tower Bridge continues at the Former St Olave's Grammar School on Tuesday 11 and Wednesday 12 May 4pm-8pm.

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