Towering office block would be a shattering blow to Southwark’s industrial heritage

Proposed high-rise development put forward by the developers of the Shard raises major concerns over the loss of Southwark’s industrial heritage.

The Victorian Society strongly objects to a recent planning proposal put forward by architects Renzo Piano Buildings Workshop, and developers Sellar, designers of the Shard. The plans involve gutting a historic Victorian warehouse in Bermondsey and erecting a 17-storey block retaining only the outer shell of the extant building. Our objection highlights two causes for grave concern; firstly, the damage that would be inflicted on the historic warehouse, and secondly the towering height of the development, which would overshadow surviving nearby industrial warehouses and contribute to the steady destruction of the historic character of Southwark. It is crucial that the historic fabric of this area is protected.

Gutting the original fabric of the warehouse, which dates between 1857-1872 and retains many of its original features, and replacing the interior with an entirely new structure would eradicate the integrity of the building, which serves as a direct link to Southwark’s rich industrial history and heritage.

The Bermondsey Street Conservation Area is characterised by its low-rise industrial buildings, largely in the form of small warehouses. The proposed 17-storey structure would be grossly out of scale with its surroundings, and importantly would set a precedent for further high-rise buildings in the area to be erected. It is crucial that new developments are sympathetic to the industrial character of the conservation area, in order to protect the historic fabric of Southwark.

Olivia Stockdale, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society,states, ‘The proposed plans would render the remains of the warehouse as wallpaper to the plinth of a glass office block. The proposed use of glass rather than brick would further create an extreme contrast with other buildings in the conservation area. It is important that despite its proximity to London Bridge, Bermondsey maintains its own historic individuality, and any development should be sympathetic to the area and its character.’

The industrial buildings of Southwark are integral to the wider history of London, and the loss of many historic buildings through damage during the war and subsequent development means it is crucial that we protect what remains of our industrial past and not set a precedent for further damage.


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