Developers have been urged to “stop demolishing youthful concrete towers at whim” on the opening day of a planning inquiry which will examine plans to replace ITV’s former headquarters on London’s South Bank with a £400m office complex.
Objectors say the plans for 72 Upper Ground, nicknamed “the Slab”, will generate more carbon emissions in its construction than if the 4,000 officer workers it is designed to house were to drive in from Surrey for 30 years.
The inquiry, which comes hot on the heels of a probe into Marks & Spencer’s plans to raze and redevelop its Marble Arch store on London’s Oxford Street, will again highlight the carbon impact of redevelopment as well as the rapidly changing landscape of central London.
Michael Ball, speaking for the Save our Southbank campaign group, acknowledged the inquiry had mainly been prompted by concerns about the visual impact of a prominent site on a bend in the River Thames between St Paul’s and the Palace of Westminster.
But he argued that the climate impact should be taken into consideration as well. “Does it meet the rapidly overriding material consideration, the very real materiality of climate emergency, the existential threat to our way of life, our civilization, our planet?”
He said: “As events overtake a slow-moving planning process, we need urgent and significant changes to the way we do things … We must do better than generating 173,000 tonnes of carbon emissions just through construction.”
Attended by more than 50 local people on Monday as well as those speaking for developers Mitsubishi Estate and CO-RE and the local council, the inquiry – which will take until early January– will hear from local MP Florence Eshalomi, who has said the building will cause a “substantial degree of unnecessary harm”, and the area’s former MP Kate Hoey, now a baroness, who has said “it’s just greedy”.
The inquiry, called by the communities secretary, Greg Clark, in August, comes despite the planning committee of the London borough of Lambeth giving the development the go-ahead earlier this year with approval backed by London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan. Demolition of the current building was paused in April by Michael Gove while ministers considered whether to call in the application.
Rupert Warren KC, speaking for the developers, said the scheme, which includes a 26-storey tower linked to a 13-storey block, was designed to “the highest standards in terms of sustainability” and that it had been decided that it was difficult to reuse the existing building for office space.
Read More: Replacing old ITV Studios building ‘just greedy’, inquiry hears | Construction