Major Demolition Project To Precede South Bank Project

The South Bank of the Thames has long been associated with arts, media and culture, not least because of productions like the South Bank Show. But the landmark ITV studios that stand on that side of the Thames are now set to be replaced in a major new development.

Councillors in Lambeth have voted through a controversial plan to demolish the tower, which is located inside the South Bank Conservation Area, and replace it with a new £400 million office block complex.

The tallest of these will be 25 floors high and the complex will also include shops, restaurants and a new art gallery. A planning officer at Lambeth Council said the project would create up to 4,500 permanent jobs when it was complete, but the scheme has faced significant opposition.

Some of this has come from Historic England, which has expressed concerns that views of the riverside could be obstructed and the proximity to listed buildings such as the National Theatre, while some local residents have said it could block out most of the light their homes currently receive.

A key area that has been addressed is the construction process, with vibrations to be monitored to ensure it does not impact on theatre performances. This, of course, will also be a concern during the demolition of the existing building, for which hydroblasting concrete removal may be necessary.

The existing tower is 22 storeys high and was built in the 1970s for London Weekend Television, one of several companies that made up the ITV network at the time. ITV had been tied in to a 56-year lease on the building until it bought the freehold from Coal Pension Properties in 2013.

Now the building is being sold, ITV will cash in and the building will be pulled down, subject to the final approval of London mayor Sadiq Khan.

This may yet remain in some doubt because of the objections some have expressed to the scheme. Cllr Scott Ainslee from Lambeth’s Green group argued against the project on the basis that other world cities would not construct large buildings in close proximity to their most iconic landmarks, citing Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and Sydney Opera House as examples.

Indeed, even some of those in favour acknowledged that not everyone will like the new building. For instance, Cllr Mohammed Seedat, who voted in favour, said: “It’s obviously a Marmite design,” although he added the rider that “Pretty much every building on that shoreline there has had negative comments, including the National Theatre.”

He explained that he is “on the bench” on the question of the quality of the design, but added: “What swings it for me is that there is a workspace for creative industries.”

Whatever the value of these opinions and their possible influence on Mr Khan’s decision, the scale of the project will undoubtedly require a very comprehensive remediation job, with all trace of the old building needing to be removed in order to lay the very different foundations needed to replace one building with three, each of varying heights.

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