Left: designed by Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1710, St Paul's has become possibly the most iconic image of the capital. © Dan Woodrow.
Experts at English Heritage have warned that St Paul's Cathedral could be lost as the symbolic focus of London if plans to build Europe's tallest building in the capital go ahead.
A public inquiry into the proposed Renzo Piano development, London Bridge Tower began on April 15, with experts from English Heritage expected to give evidence from April 29.
Prior to the start of the inquiry, the organisation's Chief Exective, Dr Simon Thurley warned that “badly placed tall buildings can blight a city for generations.”
“This tower cuts through the body of St Paul's cathedral from the legally protected view at Parliament Hill Fields,” explained Dr Thurley. “It does not simply vie for attention with St Paul's but massively usurps the Cathedral as the symbol of the city.”
“St Paul's Cathedral is the internationally recognised signature of London and the capital's most important historic and architectural focal point. Only St Paul's and the Palace of Westminster are protected by strategic views but the proposed tower disregards this legal protection and the significance of the Cathedral as the icon of London.”
“We cannot allow this speculative office block to replace St Paul's as the symbolic focus of the capital.”
Right: the cathedral has been the venue for countless historic and momentous occasions, including the funeral services of Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and Churchill. © English Heritage.
As the Government's lead body for the historic environment English Heritage will offer three key objections to the development as it is.
Firstly, that the scheme would have a major detrimental impact on the protected strategic views of St Paul's from Parliament Hill Fields and Kenwood.
Secondly, the potential damage to the local area, including North Southwark Conservation Areas and listed buildings such as Southwark Cathedral, Guy's Hospital, Tower Bridge and Lambeth Palace. Lastly, that the scheme makes a negative intrusion into two of London's World Heritage Sites, the Tower of London and the Palace of Westminster.
“London Bridge Tower is an exciting piece of design and English Heritage would like to be able to welcome a Renzo Piano building for London. However, this is the wrong location for the tallest building in Europe,” added Dr Thurley.
“For a design to be good, it must appreciate the context of the building both locally and city-wide.”
English Heritage has for some time advocated a coherent London-wide strategic approach to high buildings and the protection of important views.
Last month the organisation jointly published a Guidance on Tall Buildings document with the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, which received Government endorsement.