Communities secretary says he needs more time to make final call on controversial plans after public inquiry

Michael Gove has delayed his decision on Make’s plan to redevelop ITV’s former South Bank studios by two months.

The communities secretary had been due to make a final call on the controversial demolish and rebuild scheme by today (8 August), but has now said he will issue his decision on or before 6 October.

Make ITV 1

ITV’s 24-storey former studio would be replaced by two linked office blocks up to 26 storeys under the Make-designed plans

The office led-proposals, drawn up for developers CO-RE and Mitsubishi Estate, would replace ITV’s 24-storey former studio headquarters at 72 Upper Ground with two blocks of 26 and 13 storeys.

The application was approved by both Lambeth council and London mayor Sadiq Khan last year despite hundreds of objections from locals, including Labour MP Florence Eshalomi, and protests from heritage groups including Historic England.

Gove then put the plans on ice before they were called in by former communities secretary Greg Clark and sent to a public inquiry, which wrapped up in January.

A spokesperson for local group Coin Street Community Builders, which is opposing the scheme, said: “We have been informed that further time is required for Michael Gove to consider this case, and unfortunately it will not be possible for the minister to reach a decision on this appeal by 8 August”. 

The spokesperson added the secretary of state “will now issue his decision on or before 6 October and aims to issue the decision as quickly as possible”.

Codenamed Project Vista, the scheme is one of the biggest construction jobs in the capital but has proved controversial due to its scale and location next to the South Bank’s listed buildings, including the grade II*-listed National Theatre and the grade II-listed IBM Building which is being revamped by Multiplex for Stanhope.

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

The firm pipped Sir Robert McAlpine and Laing O’Rourke to the deal with others working on the job including QS T&T Alinea, landscape architect Grant Associates and engineer Arup.

The director of the Waterloo Community Development Group, another local group which is opposing the plans, told the public inquiry that it was “very rare that the community comes together so robustly over a development”.

Michael Ball described the proposed development as “inappropriate, out of context and harmful and hence of poor design”, adding: “It’s not the height that is damaging, it is the fatness, the girth that causes the damage […] this is a hulk.”

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.