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New London skyscraper as tall as Shard in doubt over sunlight and packed lunches

The 'Trellis', officially known as 1 Undershaft, would become the tallest building in the City of London
The ‘Trellis’, officially known as 1 Undershaft, would become the tallest building in the City of London

A new London skyscraper which would be the same height as the Shard has hit a roadblock over complaints it would block the sun and eat up public space.

At 309.6 metres high, One Undershaft, nicknamed the Trellis, would be the tallest building in the City of London cluster. With a distinctive stepped structure, it would have the highest occupied floor space in the UK.

But planners rejected proposals at a meeting yesterday and asked developers to think again, after neighbours and businesses said it would have a negative impact on public space.

In particular, they said that St Helen’s Square where city workers gather to chat and eat their lunch, would lose floor space and be overshadowed.

An overhanging 'duck bill' raised concerned about the ground below being overshadowed
An overhanging ‘duck bill’ raised concerned about the ground below being overshadowed (Picture: DBOX/Branding & Marketing for Eric Parry Architects)
A podium garden as part of the plans
Others said a podium garden would be nice but was not a substitute for public space at street level (Picture: DBOX/Branding & Marketing for Eric Parry Architects)

A ‘duck bill’ overhanging structure on the skyscraper would block the sun, residents said, and the addition of a public viewing gallery at the top would not make up for it as it would be too much of a hassle for people to queue and pass security, rather than having somewhere they could easily and quickly access on a break from work.

In public comments submitted on the plans, architect Kim Wilkie wrote that currently, people cross St Helen’s Square constantly: ‘It hums with lunchtime life in summer sunshine and warm evening gatherings. It keeps the City human.

‘Historically, open space has been very limited in this tight urban grain, so the few places where sunlight actually reaches the ground, creating a comfortable place for people to gather and enjoy the public realm, are especially important.’

But under a scenario where the plans were accepted, ‘midday summer sunshine no longer reaches most of the street and square. Reflected morning and evening light is blocked from the centre of the space.

Top of the proposed One Undershaft skyscraper with the Shard also pictured across the Thames
The two skyscrapers on either side of the Thames would be among the tallest in Western Europe (Picture: DBOX/Branding & Marketing for Eric Parry Architects)

‘The rare urban moment of generous open sky, framed by fine buildings
from the street level is removed.’

In emailed comments for the consultation, neighbour Yvonne Courtney wrote: ‘We feel utterly ‘shafted’ by the revised scheme which has done away with the sunken garden due to sheer greed – the alternative ‘podium’ garden does not cut it.

‘Having to queue/take a lift eliminates any spontaneity/peace when going for a walk and taking in some fresh air – and is off-putting for both residents and workers.

‘Truly appalling, given this side of the city is crying out for more
open space/greenery […] Please rethink.’

A final decision has not been made on the tower, which would be built on the space currently occupied by the Aviva Tower between the Gherkin and the Cheesegrater.

Amended plans by Eric Parry Architects, who designed the building for Aroland Holdings based in Singapore, will go again before City of London planners, and if accepted, the skyscraper is due to be completed around 2030.

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