One Undershaft plans delayed

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City of London
Image credit Unsplash

A decision on plans for a skyscraper the height of The Shard has been deferred after concerns including the reduction of a public square were raised in a meeting earlier today.

The City of London Corporation had been recommended to approve the 74-storey One Undershaft scheme next to the Leadenhall Building by officers, though members instead voted to send it back to the applicant to enable ‘minor adjustments’ before returning to the committee.

Doubts about whether ‘minor’ changes would address key concerns were however raised by a handful of councillors. It is not known how long it will take for any revisions to be made, though a City spokesperson said it is hoped the proposal will return ‘ASAP’.

Filed by applicant Aroland Holdings Limited, the application follows on from a scheme approved in 2019 to demolish the 1960’s Aviva Tower and construct a new office-led skyscraper in its place.

The amendments, which include increasing the height of the proposed building, were due to changing requirements since the designs were first drawn up around a decade ago, the committee was told.

As well as office space, the building would also involve a public garden podium and a floor to be utilised by the Museum of London, among other amenities.

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Objections from consultees including Historic England, The Twentieth Century Society and Tower Hamlets Council were submitted during consultation.

Justin Black, Head of UK Development at CC Land which is the lead investor in the Leadenhall Building, told committee members the proposal is ‘flawed’, and requested the decision be pushed back due to concerns including the loss of space at St Helen’s Square and the massing of the building. “I am speaking today to remind the committee that this harm, irrecoverable if progressed, is entirely avoidable,” he said.

While there had been little in the way of formal objections to the scheme from the insurance industry, which occupies the area in which One Undershaft is situated, the Financial Times reported this morning that the Chair of Lloyd’s of London Bruce Carnegie-Brown had written to the Corporation stating it “would rob the City of a really important convening space”.

Common Councillor Dominic Christian, a representative of the Lime Street ward in which the site is located and Global Chairman of Aon Reinsurance Solutions, similarly told members during the meeting that the leaders in the insurance space he had spoken with all oppose the plans. “If your audience today is the voters of Lime Street, those that are going to live and work there in the future, if you wish to sustain and advance that community, please, please defer your decision and seek further consultation.”

Beyond the perceived necessity to remove some of the public space at the ground floor level, members also asked questions on issues including waste collection and the ‘class in the clouds’ to be managed by the Museum of London.

Sharon Ament, the museum’s Director, said it is to be an immersive experience with the hope it will become a ‘rite of passage’ for all schoolchildren in the capital. She added it will require public as well as partnership funding to run.

Deputy John Fletcher proposed the meeting skip to a vote upon the meeting reaching one o’clock, three hours in, though Chair of the Planning and Transportation Committee Deputy Shravan Joshi allowed the item to continue to allow for further points to be raised during questioning.

However, roughly 15 minutes later he put forward a motion of his own suggesting the decision be deferred to allow for ‘minor adjustments’ related to St Helen’s Square and the loss of public space at the ground floor.

Deputy Joshi said: “I want it to be very clear; I don’t think this is a message to industry or the applicant that actually we are not for development or that we don’t need the densification of office space in that Eastern Cluster. I think that’s a message we need to be very clear about to the industry.” The motion was passed by nine votes to six, with two abstentions.

If the proposal is agreed upon coming back to the committee, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan will still have the opportunity to consider it before final approval can be granted. It will also be required to be referred to the next Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Secretary.

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