Why giving listed status to Broadgate is wrong

Stuart Fraser
LAST week the City of London Corporation’s Planning and Transportation Committee approved plans for a 13 storey office block at 5 Broadgate to provide a new European headquarters for UBS.

The fact that UBS has taken a long-term decision to be based in the City for the foreseeable future is an encouraging one.

However, this project has not been without controversy and the whole of Broadgate is reportedly being assessed for “listed building” designation. I believe this would be a mistake.

Whilst always mindful of the need to protect our heritage, the City of London also works closely with current occupiers and potential future occupiers to ensure the office space available in the Square Mile meets their business requirements – this is vital to continued competitiveness.

By approving the scheme at 5 Broadgate, the City of London has provided a fitting home for one of Europe’s largest banks and has demonstrated its commitment to providing a business environment that can continue to attract the world’s leading firms for many years to come.

These plans aptly demonstrate the adaptability of the original Broadgate development concept and the vision of its architect, Peter Foggo.

Broadgate is defined by the quality of its open spaces, which have been critical to its lasting appeal among the City community.

The City of London works hard to ensure that new developments represent the best of contemporary architecture while respecting our cherished network of alleys and open spaces – 5 Broadgate succeeds in this.

Ken Shuttleworth – the architect most famous for designing the Gherkin – has claimed that low-rise projects are the way forward and that “the age of the glass tower is dead”.

While current trends suggest a greater enthusiasm for lower developments or for the retrofitting of existing buildings – such as the proposal granted planning permission at 1 Angel Court last week – I would be surprised if we have seen the last application for a tall City building.

Different buildings – be they skyscrapers or groundscrapers or anything in between – offer different advantages to their occupiers; developers, architects and financiers naturally produce schemes that reflect market conditions and the business needs of potential tenants.

The fact that all of the City’s tall buildings are now fully funded and under construction shows there is still an appetite for such projects.

Stuart Fraser is policy chairman at the City of London Corporation.