A new tower with classrooms offering spectacular views from 1,000ft above the City looks set to be built, promising free school trips to 40,000 children each year.
Plans for the Tulip tower, a “glazed bulb” on top of a three-sided 787ft “stem”, were today given planning permission by the City of London Corporation.
Designed by Foster and Partners architects, the tower will be built beside the Gherkin, and stand hundreds of feet above it.
The tower was approved despite claims it would harm London’s skyline and views of the Grade I-listed Tower of London, and one complaint about its supposed “phallic” design.
The 12-storey bulb will include nine classrooms across three levels. The Corporation’s chief planning officer, Annie Hampson, said “every school child in London” will have a chance to visit during their school life.
Levels four to seven of the bulb will be public viewing points accessible to ticket holders, and a restaurant and bar will take up levels eight to 12.
Six lifts will take guests up the poured-concrete stem. There will also be tourist attractions such as a glass bridge that will “suspend across a void, affording you views across the city”.
Each of the bulb’s three sides will have gondolas that can each carry eight people and revolve between eight floors.
The Corporation’s head of development, Gwyn Richards, said: “We do believe this building has potential to become a real icon, not just of London but further afield. It is derived from the same aesthetics of the Gherkin.”
It would be accessed via an underground tunnel linked to a nearby entrance pavilion, located on the north-west corner of St Mary Axe Plaza, less than 300 yards from Aldgate Tube station.
Next to the pavilion there are plans for a “pocket park” that will house a commemorative monument to the 1992 IRA bombing at London Bridge.
But the plans were criticised by 16 people who had complaints such as saying it is: “a poor and unattractive design which adds to the visual clutter of the London skyline (including the phallic nature of the building)”.
The Mayor of London, Heritage England, and Historic Royal Palaces all said it would “harm” the setting of the Tower of London, a “world heritage site”.
But City planning officers said: “The proposed development provides the City and London with a new iconic building.
“It provides a new and significant visitor attraction in London, and would help to boost London’s tourist offer and economy, and would draw people into the City.”
Members of the Corporation’s planning committee voted 18 to seven in favour of the Tulip being built.
Permission will also have to be signed off by the government’s Department of Communities and Local Government.