Hot on the heels of the Shard, another “iconic” skyscraper is coming to the South Bank. One Blackfriars, a 50-storey tower with 274 apartments, has been approved by Southwark council. Controversially, planners have waived the normal requirement for on-site affordable housing.
St George, the developer, acquired the site after the previous owner Beetham and its Russian partner Mirax hit financial difficulties. Originally, there were plans for a deluxe Jumeirah hotel, with flats on the higher floors, but St George has chosen to fill the tower with apartments and locate a hotel in a connected low-rise building.
Looming over the river on the south side of the bridge, the tower is one of several new developments set to transform boulevard-like Blackfriars Road into a new commercial and residential hub.
The prized location, close to Tate Modern and the South Bank cultural quarter, has led Southwark council to relax its policy for 35 per cent on-site affordable housing provision. Instead the council has negotiated so-called “planning gain” payments totalling £43.5 million, which it says will pay for up to 180 affordable homes elsewhere in the borough. One benefit to locals is a £5.5 million “viewing lounge” on the 32nd floor of the tower, which will be open to the public and community groups.
“This is an incredible amount of money and shows the benefits of working proactively with private developers to drive forward investment despite a backdrop of recession,” says Peter John, council leader.
Southwark has also accepted such “in-lieu” payments from the developers of nearby King’s Reach Tower, where 173 flats are planned, and the Neo Bankside scheme of luxury apartments next to Tate Modern.
Adele Morris, the local ward councillor, fears this policy may become the norm and suggests the developer is likely to make significantly more money from the revised scheme, where a larger number of flats will cost more than £2.5 million. “Other developers will think: ‘They have got away with this, we are going to get away with it too’.”
The glass-facade of the One Blackfriars tower tapers in at the bottom to maximise views and will be similar in height to "the Gherkin", the iconic 591ft skyscraper in London's financial district. Architect Ian Simpson says the building’s “elegant expression creates a beautiful new silhouette on the London skyline”.
The scheme will incorporate a landscaped public square and retail space. St George, part of the Berkeley Group, is expected to commence construction early next year.