Developers say benefits of proposals outweigh heritage harms

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A decision on the scheme is expected to made by this summer

The public inquiry into Make’s controversial plans to redevelop the former ITV studios has ended, with a decision on whether it gets built or not expected by the summer.

Developed by CO-RE and Mitsubishi Estate, the office-led scheme was sent to the planning inspectorate in September by then-communities secretary Greg Clark, who overruled the approvals given by Lambeth council and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

The proposals, which would see the existing buildings flattened and replaced by a 26-storey tower linked to a 13-storey block, are being opposed at the inquiry by the Waterloo Community Development Group (WCDG) and Coin Street Community Builders.

Clark’s replacement Michael Gove, whose Article 31 notice last May stopped work from beginning, will make a decision after receiving a report from planning inspector Christa Masters.

Masters’ report and the ruling by Gove will be published at the same time with Masters expected to file her report by the beginning of May at which point a timeframe on when Gove will make his final decision is expected to be given.

Codenamed Project Vista, plans for 72 Upper Ground were approved by Lambeth council in March last year, despite hundreds of objections from locals, including Vauxhall MP Florence Eshalomi and protests from campaign groups.

> Also read: Campaigners tear into Make’s South Bank “hulk” on first day of public inquiry into £400m scheme

Lendlease was appointed to carry out the main construction contract on the scheme just days before Gove’s intervention with McGee set to start demolition work.

WCDG director Michael Ball told the inquiry it was “very rare that the community comes together so robustly over a development”.

Ball accused the developers of “building sideways because constraints dictate that you cannot go any higher”, resulting in a development that is “inappropriate, out of context and harmful and hence of poor design”.

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“It’s not the height that is damaging, it is the fatness, the girth that causes the damage […] this is a hulk,” he said.

Historic England has said planning should be refused “unless the secretary of state is satisfied that the harm from the proposed development has been minimised and that any public benefits would outweigh the harm”.

In its closing remarks, the developer, which is known as MEC, said: “[MEC] stands ready to invest some £700m in the scheme, unlocking the regeneration of the Site and enhancing the South Bank with a special piece of architecture by Make.

“The location is more than a ‘local’ place – it is of metropolitan importance, at least, and these proposals would contribute to the compelling qualities and vibrancy of the South Bank and its power to engage people for the decades ahead.”

The plot was bought by Mitsubishi and CO-RE for close to £150m in November 2019.

Lendlease pipped Sir Robert McAlpine and Laing O’Rourke to the deal with others working on the job including QS Alinea, landscape architect Grant Associates and engineer Arup.

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The scheme consists of two blocks rising to 26 storeys in an area which developers have said needs investment