Mixed feelings about new building that dwarfs St Paul’s Cathedral

Conservationists believe the Shard of Glass tower being erected in central London seriously compromises views of Sir Christopher Wren's masterpiece

Published 14 January 2011

The building set to be Europe’s tallest is still under construction in central London but critics fear that once completed, the iconic view of St Paul’s Cathedral will be seriously compromised.

The 1,000ft Shard of Glass tower is being erected in Southwark, on the south side of the Thames, to the consternation of conservationists who are angry that it overshadows the view of Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece.

When plans were first being considered for the Shard a decade ago, English Heritage said the £400 million tower would “put a spike through the heart of historic London”.

Now with the project halfway to completion, the conservation group believes its fears are being realised after latest photos from Parliament Hill – one of six protected panoramas - showed the tower dwarfing St Paul’s at three times its height.

A spokeswoman for English Heritage was quoted by the Evening Standard as saying: “We must ask if the colossal impact of this building will be celebrated in 300 years time, as Wren’s masterpiece continues to be today.

“We maintain that location is all. Southwark deserves investment but it should not come at the expense of one of London’s most precious – and finite – assets – its heritage.”

The 72-storey Shard was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano for property magnate Irvine Stellar. Members of the public will be allowed in to see the city from a four-floor viewing gallery at the top.

There are six protected views of central London – those from Parliament Hill, Alexandra Palace, Kenwood, Primrose Hill, Greenwich Park and Blackheath Point.

Rules state that developments “should provide an appropriate setting for strategically important landmarks by not crowding in too close to them and by not contributing to a canyon effect either side of the protected vista”.

English Heritage’s objection to the development also related to the “negative intrusion” upon views of the Tower of London and Palace of Westminster – both world heritage sites.

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