LONDON-Heron International has overcome the opposition of the conservation group English Heritage for the second time in two years with another bid for a tower in the city. This time Gerald Ronson’s company secured the backing of the City Corporation for a 23-story tower offering 325,000 sf of offices and 26,512 feet of retail. Two years ago, Heron got their backing for the 37-story Heron Tower. The latest proposal is intended to deliver a “little brother” to Heron Tower and has been designed by Kohn Pederson Fox for an adjacent site.

But in both cases, the developer faced massive opposition from groups like English Heritage because the site is in a conservation area and involves the redevelopment of listed [formally protected] buildings. But officials from English Heritage, the statutory protector of Britain’s architecture, have said they will not seek to take the scheme to planning inquiry. Now, the developer has to await the decision of the Deputy Prime Minister. The referral is automatic because it involves the demolition of a listed building and includes a tower that exceeds 113m.

Adam Wilkinson, secretary of SAVE, another conservation group, told the corporation’s planning committee that granting planning permission would effectively give other developers a weapon for major developments in conservation areas. While English Heritage argued the location is “not considered appropriate for high buildings.”

“A precedent would be set if it was decided that it was OK to build a 100m tower in a conservation area, but I cannot see ourselves asking to call in the decision,” says Dr. Gordon Higgott of English Heritage.

The decision is likely to offer hope to Henderson Global Investors. Last week the firm unveiled plans to build a speculative 21-story tower in the city, designed by Foster & Partners and comprising 215,000 sf of offices. Like the latest Heron proposal, it will also be automatically referred to the deputy prime minister because it will be 115m high.

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