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Heathrow’s air traffic control threatens to ground City’s tallest tower

By James Buckley - Wednesday, October 26, 2016 15:00

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The company that provides air traffic control services to Heathrow has objected to plans by Singapore-based Aroland Holdings to build a 1m sq ft tower in the Square Mile.

NATS contends the building, at 1 Undershaft, will interfere with its H10 radar at Heathrow, which detects and measures the position of aircraft, as well as requesting additional information from the aircraft itself such as its identity and altitude.

Aroland Holdings lodged plans earlier this year for the 73-storey office skyscraper which will rise to 309.6m, crowning the new cluster of planned towers in the Square Mile and tying with The Shard for the title of the UK's tallest building.

In a letter seen by CoStar News, NATS said: “NATS has carried out an assessment of the proposal and its position is that it expects the development to have an unacceptable impact on its operations and infrastructure.

“Specifically, NATS expects the proposal to cause a degradation to its PSR/SSR radar located at Heathrow airport (known as ‘H10’). NATS anticipates an impact in the form of a loss of radar cover due to shielding, as well as the generation of false aircraft targets due to reflections from the building.

“The NATS assessment also shows the potential for an impact on air traffic operations in the London Terminal Manoeuvring Area (TMA) should any construction equipment rise above the height of 309.6m AOD causing an infringement of airspace.”

However, despite the objection, NATS says it is working with the developer and hopes to reach a mutually satisfactory outcome. “Although the mitigation investigation is still on-going, NATS is confident that a package of mitigation measures can be agreed in the near future in order to allow it to support the imposition of suitable planning conditions.

“NATS is continuing to work with the applicant and will be happy to provide regular updates on its progress to the City of London.”

The property industry yesterday reacted overwhelmingly in support of the government’s decision to approve a third runway at Heathrow to expand UK airport capacity. Ministers approved the long-awaited decision at a cabinet committee meeting on Tuesday.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling called the decision "truly momentous" and said expansion would improve the UK's connections with the rest of the world and support trade and jobs.

The NATS objection is not the first to be received by the developer in response to plans for 1 Undershaft. In May, nearby St Helen’s Church Bishopsgate called for the proposals to be thrown out. Writing to the City Corporation, church manager Brian O’Donoghue said: “This is a very significant scheme that will impact on the setting of these grade I listed churches and on the many and varied day-to-day activities that take place within them.”

The Eric Parry-designed scheme would comprise a 970,000sq ft development that would replace the existing Aviva Building. At 309.6m, the proposed skyscraper will be 80m taller than the nearby Cheesegrater, which stands at 224m, and will dwarf the 180m-high Gherkin.

A retail element of 22,000 sq ft will also be incorporated in the form of new restaurants, cafes, and shops.

Separately, livery company The Leathersellers, has also objected to the proposals due the “potentially adverse impact” the development could have on its property interests along St Helen’s Place, St Mary Axe and Bishopsgate.

Writing to the City Corporation on behalf of The Leathersellers, law firm Eversheds said: “There is now a real risk of ‘tipping the balance’: this area of the City can only accommodate a finite number of tall buildings before irreversible harm will be caused to important surrounding historic receptors.”

“The proposed building has the potential to cuase significant harm to the character of the St Helen’s Conservation Area by virtue of its height and form and the increasing perception of the conservation area being hemmed in by tall buildings.”

Meanwhile, New Ireland Assurance Company, which owns neighbouring office building 1 Great St Helen’s, occupied by Hiscox Insurance, has also objected to the proposals for the site, claiming that the proposed development extends beyond the ‘red line boundary’ for the application site.

“Accordingly, we would contest the validity of the applciation”, it said. “The combined impact of three 50+ storey towers (122 Leadenhall, 22 Bishopsgate and 1 Undershaft) on 1 Great St. Helens will result in an increased sense of enclosure.”

Historic Royal Palaces, the charity that looks after a handful of historic London landmarks, has also voiced its concern over the potential visual impact and “irreparable harm” the scheme could have on the Tower of London.

The proposed 1 Undershaft scheme would also include a large public square at the base of the tower and a public viewing gallery, education centre and public restaurant at the top of the tower.

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