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Tower of London

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Factors affecting the property in 2006*
  • Housing
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

Possible impacts of development and high-rise projects in the immediate vicinity of the property.

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2006
Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved : 0 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2006

The State Party submitted a report for the site on 30 January 2006, which was reviewed by the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS. Four main issues have been identified:

a) Two tall buildings which impact on the Tower have been given planning permission and further high rise buildings are being considered, which could impact adversely on critical views of and from the Tower;

b) Policies to protect London World Heritage sites within the London Plan currently seem not to be applied effectively;

c) Revised planning guidelines on London views, currently out for consultation, could limit the protection of views around the Tower;

d) The management plan for the Tower of London, which should strengthen protection for this site, has not yet been finalised or approved by the relevant authorities.

These are considered in further detail:

Proposed High-rise Constructions:

Two tall towers, the Minerva Tower, 217m, near the Tower of London and the so-called Shard of Glass Tower, 306m, at London Bridge, were both opposed by English Heritage for their impact on the Tower of London World Heritage property and its setting, and yet were still given planning permission. The Minerva Tower will appear directly behind the White Tower when viewed from Tower Bridge. Two further tall buildings, the Bishopsgate Tower, 324m, and 20 Fenchurch Street, 209m, have now been submitted for approval by developers. Both will be highly visible to the north-west of the Tower of London when viewed from London Bridge.

Although modern buildings have been built around the Tower complex, they have not altered significantly the relationship of volume and scale. However, it is different in the case of high-rise towers in the vicinity, including the so-called “Gherkin”, designed by Foster, and for the new development authorised. In this case, regardless of the high quality of the design, the new architecture constitutes an alteration of the historic urban landscape of the World Heritage site.

The London Plan:

The planning approvals are not in line with policies within the agreed London Plan. Approved in 2003, this contains policies that clearly spell out the need to protect World Heritage properties and their settings.

London Views:

Current protection for key London views is being revised and the proposals recently put out for consultation narrow the protected views to a point that would give much reduced protection, particularly to the north across the River Thames.

Management plan:

Although a Plan was drafted in 2001, this has still not been approved.

The State Party provided a combined report on 30 January 2006 for both the Tower of London and Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church World Heritage properties. This sets out the planning framework within which decisions are taken and acknowledges that decisions on new development have to balance heritage considerations against others and decide ‘which should be given greater weight’. It further states that ‘this may mean that on occasion it is necessary to accept some small diminution of the visual setting of a World Heritage property in order to meet other planning objectives’. It also states that ‘decisions on developments have to be taken within the context of why London is important. Unlike many other urban centres ... London is not a product of one architectural period or style’. It quotes the Vienna Memorandum and says that accepting a small adverse impact in order to maintain the overall vitality of the area is justified and is in line with this document.

The report submitted by the State Party indicates that the management plan is unlikely to be agreed upon before 2007, as further discussion is still needed amongst key stakeholders. On the question of a detailed study of the impact of development, the State Party maintains that this was initially proposed by the State Party and appears in the decision of the 27th session but that no discussion has taken place.On the current state of development, the State Party records the way approval has been given for the two approved tall buildings: the further two applications are not mentioned; one of these was submitted after the end of January.

ICOMOS and the World Heritage Centre consider that the impacts of the tall buildings already given approval and those subsequently submitted will have far greater than a “small adverse impact” on the Tower of London. If built, these buildings could confuse what remains of the Tower’s silhouette.

In order to determine more precisely the impacts on views, both of the Tower and outwards from within its Inner Ward, a thorough skyline study should be commissioned to assess and document the setting of the Tower and the key views connected to its World Heritage status.

Any new development within London should aim to maintain or enhance the setting and critical views associated with the Tower, as well as the World Heritage property of Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church. It is of concern that the management plan for the Tower has not yet been finalised in the light of the rapid development planned in the surrounding area. Any reduction in statutory protection of the views associated with the Tower, or narrowing of those views, would mean a diminution in protection of its World Heritage values.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2006
30 COM 7B.74
State of Conservation (Tower of London)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-06/30.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 29 COM 7B.89, adopted at its 29th session (Durban, 2005),

3. Notes with great concern that proposed new developments around the Tower of London and Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Church World Heritage properties, appear not to respect the significance of either World Heritage property, their settings and related vistas;

4. Regrets that the London Plan policies to protect the World Heritage property and its environment do not seem to be applied effectively, that statutory protection for views to and from the Tower could be diminished, and that the management plan has still not been finalised;

5. Also regrets that the requested in-depth study on the possible impact of development projects in the immediate vicinity of the World Heritage property has not been submitted and that no detailed skyline study of the Tower, its setting and views has yet been carried out and urges the State Party to carry out such a skyline survey as soon as possible to provide a qualitative framework for assessing the impact of new development on views and setting that contribute to the outstanding universal value of the Tower;

6. Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS monitoring mission as soon as possible to assess the impact of current planning proposals in the spirit of the Vienna Memorandum on "World Heritage and Contemporary Architecture, Managing the Historic Urban Landscape" (2005) and to review the possibility of inclusion of the property in the List of World Heritage in Danger, including benchmarks and timeframes for corrective action;

7. Also requests the State Party to provide the World Heritage Centre with an updated report, by 1 February 2007 on the progress of its undertakings in this area, and on the state of conservation of the property, for examination by the Committee at its 31st session in 2007.

Draft Decision: 30 COM 7B.74

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-06/30.COM/7B,

2. Recalling Decision 29 COM 7B.89, adopted at its 29th session (Durban, 2005),

3. Notes with great concern that proposed new developments around the Tower of London and Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church World Heritage properties, appear not to respect the significance of either World Heritage property, their settings and related vistas;

4. Regrets that the London Plan policies to protect the World Heritage property and its environment do not seem to be applied effectively, that statutory protection for views to and from the Tower could be diminished, and that the management plan has still not been finalised;

5. Deeply regrets that the requested in-depth study on the possible impact of development projects in the immediate vicinity of the World Heritage property has not been submitted and that no detailed skyline study of the Tower, its setting and views has yet been carried out and urges the State Party to carry out such a skyline survey as soon as possible to provide a qualitative framework for assessing the impact of new development on views and setting that contribute to the outstanding universal value of the Tower;

6. Requests the State Party to invite a joint World Heritage Centre/ICOMOS monitoring mission to assess the impact of current planning proposals and to review the possibility of inclusion of the property in the List of World Heritage in Danger, including benchmarks and timeframes for corrective action;

7. Also requests the State Party to provide the World Heritage Centre with an updated report, by 1 February 2007 on the progress of its undertakings in this area, and on the state of conservation of the property, for examination by the Committee at its 31st session in 2007.

Report year: 2006
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Date of Inscription: 1988
Category: Cultural
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 30COM (2006)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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