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18 Blackfriars: 53-storey tower OKed by Southwark councillors

Plans for a major development on Blackfriars Road including SE1's second tallest building - with 288 homes, a 548-room hotel, a music venue, shops and and offices - have been approved by Southwark's planning committee.

18 Blackfriars: 53-storey tower OKed by Southwark councillors
Approved: 18 Blackfriars by Wilkinson Eyre

The site known as 18 Blackfriars is bounded by Blackfriars Road in the east, Stamford Street in the north, Paris Garden in the west and Christ Church Garden to the south.

The land is currently vacant with the last building – the former Sainsbury's sausage and pie factory – being demolished during the past year.

Nine years have passed since Southwark's planning committee last considered a scheme for the site. That proposal was finally approved by the Government in 2009 after a public inquiry.

The site has changed hands several times over the years, passing from Land Securities to Israeli-backed Circleplane before its acquisition by Malaysian-backed, Jersey-registered company Black Pearl who have brought forward the latest proposals designed by architects Wilkinson Eyre.

Planning officer Yvonne Lewis told councillors that the proposed tall buildings would "sit comfortably" within the cluster of skyscrapers near Blackfriars Bridge and that "the design quality justifies the scale".

Ms Lewis said that Southwark and City Hall planners did not accept the contention by Historic England and the City of Westminster that the proposed development would harm the view from the bridge in St James's Park.

She highlighted the features of the development including accommodation for 2,000 jobs in the 34-storey office building and the provision of a new music venue next to The Mad Hatter with a capacity of around 500 people.

Ms Lewis acknowledged the impact that the development would have on the daylight and sunlight received by homes in River Court and Rennie Court to the north.

On affordable housing, she explained that the scheme would provide 61 flats for social rent, which would be "truly affordable homes in a very high-value area of Bankside".

In addition, the developer proposes to buy out 35 private homes in Family Mosaic's current development in Amelia Street (off Walworth Road) to be let at affordable rent.

Black Pearl will also pay the council £1.6 million as an in-lieu payment for further affordable housing.

In total, the developer will contribute around £31 million of community infrastructure levy (CIL) payments.

Tony Guthrie, a trustee of Marshall's Charity which owns the adjacent Christ Church Southwark building, addressed the committee to seek assurances about the future upkeep of Christ Church Garden.

Mr Guthrie told councillors that Christ Church Southwark is struggling to operate whilst surrounded by demolition and construction works.

Amir Eden, chair of the Bankside Residents' Forum, complained that the consultation carried out by the developer had been poor.

Mr Eden highlighted the findings of the council's own viability assessment which showed that a greater proportion of affordable housing would be viable.

He also asked the committee to impose a number of conditions, including assurances about the mix of retail units.

Representing Black Pearl, planning consultant Sam Hine of DP9 said that the scheme would resolve an "eyesore" on Blackfriars Road and told councillors that his clients had funding in place to begin construction in early 2018.

Architect Jim Eyre said he "wanted to design a tall building that is distinctly residential in character" and that "would speak of Southwark rather than the City opposite".

He claimed that the "incredibly slender and elegant" building "sits very well" in all the key local views.

Mr Eyre said that the proposed public space would "strengthen the identity of this part of Southwark" and the development would create "a really good piece of city with high-quality architecture.

Cathedrals ward councillor David Noakes pointed out to the committee that the on-site provision of affordable housing equated to just 24 per cent, and warned that the council's preference to provide affordable housing elsewhere in the borough risked the future of Bankside as a mixed community.

Cllr Noakes also highlighted the concerns about the height of the 53-storey tower raised by Southwark's own conservation areas advisory group, as well as local groups such as the Lambeth Estate Residents' Association (LERA).

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