City planners have approved the next phase of the redevelopment of the Broadgate office area, on the northern boundary of the Square Mile.
The approval means that office blocks at numbers 2 and 3 Finsbury Avenue will be demolished, and replaced with far taller new blocks, further densifying the Broadgate estate. The new blocks will sit immediately to the west of 5 Broadgate, recently redeveloped with a taller, second generation office block designed by Make Architects.
Arup Associates have designed a new block with four elements, the tallest of which rises to 32 storeys, with other elements rising 20 storeys, 13 storeys and stepping down to 8 storeys at the western end. In total they will deliver 85,378 sq m of largely office space which, says British Land, will accommodate up to 5,000 staff across a range of flexible floorplates. The building includes a conference and event space with panoramic views across London, while City planners also secured a publicly accessible roof terrace on level 13 of the building, accessed via scenic lifts.
The new building replaces 2 and 3 Finsbury Avenue, designed by Peter Foggo of Arups and built in the 1980s. Those blocks contain just 22,359 sq m of space, and officers recommended the scheme for approval partly due to the “substantial increase in high quality office accommodation”. In common with the neighbouring 1 Finsbury Avenue, all three buildings were considered for listing, due to their elegant design including externally expressed frames and shades; while 1 Finsbury Avenue was grade II listed in 2015, buildings 2 and 3 were granted a certificate of immunity from listing.
Several organisations objected to the scale of the new blocks, including neighbouring Islington and Hackney boroughs. And the City planning committee debated the redevelopment for an hour, before falling into line and voting almost unanimously for the scheme, which had been trimmed in height from initial proposals.
Planning committee chairman Chris Hayward commented: “I’m delighted that we have approved 2-3 Finsbury Avenue as I believe that it will play an important part in continuing the City’s growth and increasing London’s attraction as the world’s leading financial centre. Over the next thirty years we foresee that we will need to deliver office space for more than 50,000 extra workers within the Square Mile, and this development is important in reaching that end goal.”
Rob Samuel, head of office development at British Land, said: “We are delighted that the City of London has resolved to grant planning permission for 2 and 3 Finsbury Avenue Square as part of the future transformation of Broadgate as an integrated piece of the City. It has a diversity of uses, responding to evolving occupier needs and provides a unique blend of public spaces, restaurants and shops linking the northern City to Shoreditch and Tech City.”
LPA Perspective: Having established the principle of a denser and taller Broadgate, with the approval of Make’s “engine block” redevelopment at 5 Broadgate, planners have set the tone for the scheme’s progressive updating. British Land, too, are keen to move while they can, having secured a deal with UBS to move into the new building, freeing up others around Broadgate for a refresh.
Clearly the scale of the new blocks worried planning committee members – and plenty of others – but at the end of it all, the argument about the City needing to deliver new workspaces has won the day. In a post-Brexit cooling of corporate decisions about big office moves, the need for fresh office space may temporarily be waning, but long term the City is confident it will retain its leading position in the world – and it is planning to meet those needs.