An office block next to London’s oldest Gothic church will become even taller despite fears the cathedral will be dwarfed by the plans.
Two floors will be added to six-storey Minerva House in Southwark, as well as roof terraces with 360 degree views of the capital, under proposals approved by the council on June 6.
The 1980s office block sits across the street from Grade-I listed Southwark Cathedral, which was built over 600 years ago between 1220 and 1420. But some local residents fear the upwards extension of the building will further overshadow the historic cathedral and encourage more drunken revellers to use a nearby square as a toilet.
GPE has agreed to put £425,000 towards improving Southwark Cathedral, as well as making the council a £393,000 carbon offset payment
Amir Eden, chair of neighbourhood group Living Bankside, told a Southwark Council planning meeting the proposals would significantly impact the cathedral.
Mr Eden, who lives locally, said: “[Southwark Cathedral] stands to be further dwarfed. […] I find myself perplexed by the utter lack of substance of this proposal. I mean look at it. Juxtapose it with the cathedral and the conservation area and ask yourself ‘is it in keeping?’
“If you look at certain views from West or East, the cathedral’s tower is going to be impacted significantly. You stand to have this crown jewel that will not be seen as it is currently.”
Mr Eden said that he was particularly disappointed that developer Great Portland Estates [GPE] had failed to offer any money to improve nearby Minerva Square, which is home to the permanent memorial to those who lost their life in the London Bridge terror attack.
He added: “The square is a victim to vandalism and human fouling by inebriated visitors. The applicant’s proposed uses will add to these problems.”
As part of the plans, GPE has agreed to put £425,000 towards improving Southwark Cathedral, as well as making the council a £393,000 carbon offset payment.
The new roof terraces will be restricted to use between 9am and 8pm, Monday to Friday and affordable workspace available at a 25 per cent discount to market rates will be included in the development.
James Shipton, senior development manager at GPE, said the extension would create new jobs and improve the attractiveness of the area. He told the meeting: “Our net zero carbon proposal reuses 12,000 sq metres of existing office space and creates a further 6,000 sq metres of new space.
“Overall it is estimated the improved building will support more than 1,600 local jobs, boosting the local economy. We are proposing significant public realm improvements, including a new pedestrian route through the building to enhance the Jubilee Walkway, as well as a new attractively landscaped garden in Montague Close.”
Minerva House, which is on the bank of the River Thames, sits within the capital’s Central Activity Zone, an area described by City Hall as “one of the world’s most attractive and competitive business locations.”
City Hall estimates there is a need for 177,000 more office jobs in the area between 2011 and 2031.
A council planning committee made up of four Labour councillors and one Liberal Democrat approved the plans unanimously on June 6. Explaining her decision, Kath Whittam, Labour councillor for Rotherhithe said: “Minerva House at the moment looks horrible. I think it will improve the look.”