The proposals were ‘in the alternative’ schemes for an office-led development of either 37 or 26 storeys located on St Thomas Street in the Borough High Street Conservation Area.
The schemes were refused on design and heritage grounds in accordance with the recommendation of the Inspector. It was “clear” to the Inspector “that the heritage harm and harm to townscape character and design” were “not outweighed by the public benefits, including heritage benefits” and that both schemes were in conflict with the development plan.
In relation to design, the Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector that both schemes would result in “significant harm” in design terms due to the scale and massing of the tall buildings as well as their failure to respond positively to local character and townscape. It was found that both schemes would erode the careful balance of the contrast in townscape between the current Shard cluster and St Thomas Street and Borough High Street. The effect would be “uncomfortable”, creating a “jarring effect in the townscape”. The “drama and interest” created by each scheme “would be for the wrong reasons”.
The Secretary of State also found that both schemes would give rise to heritage harm to a wide number of designated assets within Southwark and across London, including those of the highest significance, and that this harm carried considerable weight. Whilst the appellant’s case was that there would be a positive effect on the Borough High Street Conservation Area, the Inspector accepted the LB Southwark’s case that there would be harm “at a high level within the less than substantial harm scale” for both schemes. It was also found that there would be a high level of less than substantial harm to Guy’s Hospital due to a “stark” and “dominating effect”, with the “proximity and juxtaposition…particularly incongruous” for one scheme and a “very uncomfortable relationship” which would be “discordant and distracting” for the other.