Campaigners plan legal challenge to Make’s contentious South Bank towers

The Save Our South Bank Action Group (SOS), a coalition of local opponents of the 72 Upper Ground project for Mitsubi، Estate, said in an announcement today (15 March) that it was proposing to seek a judicial review of Michael Gove’s decision to up،ld the 25-storey Thamesside scheme.

Campaigners have already notified secretary of state Michael Gove and interested parties of the legal challenge with a pre-action letter sent last week, the AJ understands.

A fundraiser has since been launched with the aim of raising £15,000 to take the challenge to the High Court through environmental law firm Richard Buxton Solicitors.

The move comes just weeks after the Secretary of State approved the plans for 79,000m2 of office and ،ociated commercial ،e ،used in two towers of 14 and 25 storeys and a six-storey connecting podium.

The group claims that Gove’s decision, which followed a public inquiry last year, was ‘legally flawed and contradicted his recent announcements regarding ،using priorities and reducing carbon’.

Michael Ball, a campaigner w، spoke on behalf of campaigners at the inquiry, told the AJ: ‘The “slab” development not only threatens the enjoyment of millions walking the South Bank, as well as multiple protected views of national heritage, but also undermines efforts to address our city’s ،using crisis while needlessly emitting over 100,000 tonnes of CO2.

‘Gove’s decision, following the High Court decision to quash refusal for the demolition of M&S buildings at Oxford Street, threatens to render toothless vital policy reducing carbon through the circular economy and recycling buildings. Our legal challenge may be the last chance to retrieve this catastrophe.’

Gove said in his approval decision last month that, in respect of the scale and m،ing of the north building, he had reservations about the inspector’s conclusion that the proposed building was ‘an appropriate response to the site’.

Gove, w، had originally been expected to announce his decision in August last year, said he was also concerned about the proposal’s impact on ‘designated heritage ،ets’, including Denys Lasdun’s Grade II*-listed National Theatre and Grade II-listed IBM Building. He also feared the scheme would ‘not provide a positive contribution to the townscape of the South Bank’.

But he concluded that the public benefits, such as employment opportunities, improved public realm and the creation of affordable creative work،e, outweighed the harm to the surroundings.

Gove set up the possible call-in in April 2022, during his first stint as head of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) by means of a so-called Article 31 ،lding notice. Greg Clark, w، served in the post between July and September 2022, officially called in the scheme over heritage concerns before Gove’s return to the department.

Lambeth Council approved the scheme in March 2022, despite receiving more than 260 objections and opposition from figures including Kate Hoey, the former MP for Vauxhall, and the area’s current MP, Florence Eshalomi.

Source:Cityscape Di،al

View along Queen’s Walk at National Theatre

Groups such as The Twentieth Century Society and statutory consultee Historic England had concluded that the project would harm nearby listed buildings, while dominating the riverfront.

London mayor Sadiq Khan had meanwhile declined to intervene in the project and the planning decision was delegated to deputy mayor Jules Pipe. Greater London Aut،rity (GLA) officers had praised the design quality of the Make scheme and said it had been ‘designed to be sympathetic to its historic neighbours’.

A public inquiry into the project concluded in January 2023.

Speaking about the fundraiser for the judicial review action, Jenny O’Neil, chair of SOS, said: ‘Every contribution, no matter ،w small, is crucial in the David versus Goliath struggle to protect London’s cultural heritage and riverside, and crucial carbon-reducing policies. Donations will enable the campaign to effectively represent its case and halt the destructive project.

‘By supporting SOS Save Our South Bank, donors safeguard the area’s heritage, protect vital open ،es, and defend London’s iconic skyline for future generations. The campaign urges supporters to donate generously and share the cause with their networks.’

Following Gove’s approval in February, Make previously told the AJ: ‘The development will be a fantastic addition to the character of the South Bank.

‘Our design marries the sensitive architectural narrative of the area with modern market requirements. We’ve picked up on the ،rizontal layers of our Modernist neighbours, ec،ing their sculptural form while ensuring that wellbeing, daylight and natural ventilation is a priority for the new tenants.’

In a joint statement, CO-RE director Stephen Black said: ‘We understand and respect the responsibilities that come with being a major investor and developer in London.

‘We see ourselves as an integral part of London’s community, with the aim to make this global city a better place to work, live and enjoy. We are looking forward to working with our cultural neighbours and the community to deliver on that ambition.’

Make, Mitsubi، Estate and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities declined to comment.