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Saturday, January 19, 2013

BATTLE LINES DRAWN TO PROTECT VIEWS OF OLE LONDON



Battle lines drawn to protect views of old London
Preservationists square off with urban planners and developers over building skyscrapers near heritage sites like the Tower of London

By Martin Bailey. Web only
Published online: 09 January 2013


The British government is facing criticism from Unesco for allowing the Shard, Renzo Piano’s 95-storey commercial tower, and other skyscrapers to be built so close to the Tower of London. A response is being prepared by the UK authorities.

Unesco’s World Heritage Committee last year recommended that the UK should “regulate further build-up of the area surrounding the Shard of Glass building, ensuring that approved heights do not exceed a height whereby they would become visible above the on-site historic buildings”. 

The Shard, which will have a public viewing gallery that is due to open to visitors in February, now looms over the medieval walls of the Tower of London, when seen from its central green. The 1,016-foot skyscraper is the tallest building in western Europe. Although located 700 yards away from the Tower of London, across the Thames near London Bridge station, the Shard dominates the nearby skyline and can be seen from miles away in many parts of the city.

Preserving the views around the Tower of London has proved highly controversial. Earlier this month, the former heritage minister John Penrose, who stepped down last September, admitted that the Shard “nearly didn’t happen” because of its impact on the Tower. He is calling on English Heritage, with guidance from Unesco, to formulate a policy that would lead to “selecting the best views of our city and townscapes” to be protected in a similar way that buildings can be listed for preservation. 

The present situation, Penrose says, lacks clarity, which makes it difficult for developers and offers insufficient protection for the most important views. Two years ago, English Heritage published a report to evaluate the significance of historic urban views. Penrose now wants a more formal solution to the problem.


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