City skyscraper plans ‘threaten’ Tower of London’s World Heritage status

View of the Tower of London in daylight
The Tower of London could lose its UNESCO World Heritage status, Historic England warns (Image: Philip Bird via

The Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral could be “severely harm[ed]” by the expansion of the Square Mile’s office space and tall buildings, Historic England has warned.

The watchdog said the City of London Corporation’s draft City Plan 2040 was “unsound in its current form” due to its wider heritage impacts, according to a submission seen by the BBC’s Local Democracy Reporting Service.

The plans, which include adding 1.2 million sq m of office floorspace across the City, put the Tower of London’s UNESCO World Heritage status under “real threat”, said Historic England.

The consultation on the corporation’s guiding document on developing the Square Mile, which will replace the Local Plan 2015, ends on 17 June.

‘Very serious conflict’

According to the BBC, the representation by Historic England, which is dated 24 May and has not been made public, praised the City’s expanded archaeology policy and policies on retrofit and refurbishment of existing buildings.

However, it also said there was a “very serious inherent conflict and incompatibility” between its aspirations for the historic environment and its office expansion plans.

It wrote: “We believe that policies relating to tall buildings and the City Cluster in the draft Plan represent a real threat to the World Heritage Site status of the Tower of London.

“The quantum of development proposed would result in severe harm to the significance of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Outstanding Universal Value of the Tower of London.”

Historic England added that it wanted “to work with the City to find ways to accommodate growth while conserving the historic environment”.

‘A bespoke approach’

A spokesperson for the Tower of London’s management charity, Historic Royal Palaces, quoted by the BBC said it supported Historic England’s worries and had raised “similar concerns”.

Shravan Joshi, chair of the planning and transportation committee at the City of London Corporation, told the BBC that the City Plan 2040 “recognises the exceptional significance of the World Heritage Site and the Cathedral” and takes a “bespoke and exhaustive approach to tall buildings and heritage”.

He added: “The Plan will ensure development protects and celebrates all our heritage assets while continuing to support the economic growth of the capital.

“In the City, growth and conservation combine to define what is unique about the Square Mile, and this is ultimately at the heart of the Plan.”

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  1. Why the sudden concern? The proliferation of tall buildings of questionable architectural merit in the City of London ruined the visually historic character of the City skyline many years ago! A few more won’t make much difference, apart from making Saint Paul’s Cathedral effectively invisible from almost any viewpoint. The Tower of London is only the latest potential casualty in ‘the race for space’ in the City. Wasn’t Canary Wharf meant to avoid such problems?

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