Plans for the City of London’s tallest skyscraper put on hold

London’s race to be ‘Manhattan on Thames’ is being halted as plans to build the City’s tallest skyscraper and one of the highest towers in Europe have been put on hold.

No1 Undershaft would have towered over other City of London landmarks

The City’s planning officers had recommended the approval of 1 Undershaft, a 154,000 sq m flexible office building which, at 74 storeys and 309.6 metres high, would match The Shard across the river and would tower above other City landmarks like the Walkie Talkie and the Cheese Grater.

But instead of rubber-stamping the decision as expected, the City of London Planning Applications Sub-Committee has accepted a last-minute objection from Lloyd’s of London that the new skyscraper would infringe too much on the adjacent St Helen’s Square communal space.

The sub-committee decided that “minor adjustments in relation to the ground floor public realm” are needed and has sent the project back to the developers, Aroland Holdings, to make structural changes to the plan so that the building occupies less of the square in which City workers congregate during breaks.

Bruce Carnegie-Brown, chair of Lloyd’s of London, which occupies the Grade 1-listed Lloyd’s building in St Helen’s Square opposite where 1 Undershaft would be, has written to the local authorities that the skyscraper “would rob the City of a really important convening space”.

CC Land, the lead investor in the Cheesegrater building, also lodged an objection, declaring that the current plans would result “in an unnecessary harm to the public realm townscape and the setting of heritage assets”.

A spokesperson for Aroland Holdings said that they have “listened carefully to the comments made regarding the public space at ground floor” and will be working closely with the City of London corporation.

The plans for 1 Undershaft, designed by Eric Perry Architects, were first submitted ten years ago and changed several times. The latest plan includes a viewing platform on the 73rd floor, an educational space for the Museum of London and a skygarden open to the public on the 11th floor.

The building would be 50 storeys taller than the existing tower, formerly Aviva’s London headquarters, which was built in the 1960s and which some believe should be preserved and not demolished.

London has seen 270 towers above 20 storeys built in the last decade and there are planning applications in place for another 583 that would change the skyline of the City in the next decade.

Shravan Joshi, planning chair at the City of London corporation, insisted that the delay to the 1 Undershaft project “is not a message to industry that we are against development.”