April 2, 2019 / 3:34 PM / 3 months ago

London backs plans for 'Tulip' tower to bloom over the city

LONDON (Reuters) - Plans to build a glass viewing tower perched 1,000 feet above London on a slender tower shaped like a tulip have been approved by the local authority.

The City of London financial district is seen with office skyscrapers commonly known as 'Cheesegrater', 'Gherkin' and 'Walkie Talkie' seen in London, Britain, January 25, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville/Files

The building is expected to be western Europe’s second-tallest tower when it is complete, beaten only by the nearby “Shard” building.

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in 2016 initially cast a pall over London’s property market but the plans to build the Tulip have been seen as vote of confidence in the city.

Planning authorities in the City of London’s finance district recommended the building - which gets its nickname because it has a thin stalk topped by a glass bulb - should be granted planning permission at a meeting on Tuesday.

The approval came despite criticism that the building, designed by Foster and Partners, would interrupt views of the Tower of London, and concerns from London City airport that it would interfere with radar coverage.

“After a lengthy and robust debate, the committee agreed to approve this truly unique visitor attraction,” said Planning Committee Chairman Chris Hayward.

Financed by the Brazilian billionaire Jacob Safra, the building comprises a glass viewing platform, rotating pods on the outside and an education centre. Construction is likely to begin next year and finish in 2025.

For centuries, St. Paul’s cathedral, rebuilt by architect Sir Christopher Wren in the 17th century, was the tallest structure in London but the skyline now is changing fast.

There are more than 541 buildings of 20 storeys or more in the pipeline in London, according to a survey earlier this year by New London Architecture, an independent organization.

Critics say the City is becoming increasingly cluttered by glass-and-metal towers with nicknames like the walkie-talkie or the cheesegrater that have little architectural interest and that dwarf historic landmarks.

Some projects have faced fierce opposition from residents and groups such as the Skyline Campaign, which is supported by architects, historians, engineers and others who feel London’s character and heritage is under threat from skyscrapers.

Reporting By Andrew MacAskill; editing by Stephen Addison

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