Cromwell Tower – proposal to install 92 antennae on rooftop

An application was submitted in the middle of March from “global connectivity specialists” Luminet Solutions Ltd for “The installation of 92 no. small antennas attached to new supporting steelwork, together with associated shrouding and ancillary works, on the rooftop of the building”. For the avoidance of doubt, the building in question is Cromwell Tower. The relevant application numbers are 23/01387/LBC and 23/01386/FULL. Access to the relevant planning portal to view all of the accompanying documentation can be gained here. The more technical description of the proposals can be viewed here.

History – first application in 2009 withdrawn, second application approved

Some may recall that a similar application was made back in 2009 (the LBC application reference is 09/00204/LBC; the FULL application reference is 09/00203/FULL). However, this application was subsequently withdrawn on 29th July 2009. A second application then followed later in 2009 – on 2nd October 2009 to be precise. The LBC application reference is 09/00681/LBC. This was for the “Installation of six antennae and two 0.3m dishes on the roof of Cromwell Tower, including the installation of two wall mounted equipment cabinets plus ancillary development thereto”. This application was approved and is referenced in Luminet’s proposal as a “reason for approval” (for this current application) with the applicant stating that “The proposed installation would be barely visible and would have a minimal impact upon the appearance of the special architectural and historic character interest of the listed building”.

Whilst there is indeed already some telecoms equipment installed on Cromwell Tower (but without residents’ prior knowledge or consent), that does not mean that even more needs to be installed. It is also my understanding that another application to install telecoms equipment on the Cromwell Tower roof was made in 2014 but was quickly withdrawn.  

Current application

The cover letter of the proposed works states that the application is for “The installation of 92 no. small antennas attached to new supporting steelwork, plus development ancillary thereto, all contained within new GRP-shrouding, upon the rooftop of the building”.

It goes on: “The proposed apparatus will enable line-of-sight wireless internet connection between local buildings within the area. This is considered preferable to the digging and laying of new fibre cables in the ground. The proposal allows for the wireless connection of fibre-quality internet between short-range buildings. The rooftop at Cromwell Tower measures 123m in height. The proposed development has been designed to sit within GRP-shrouding to ensure that any visual impact of the scheme is reduced the maximum effect. It is not anticipated that the proposed shrouding will be visible from ground-level, as it is purposely designed to be set-back from the roof-edge……. Whilst the shrouding may be visible from neighbouring towers within the immediate vicinity, the shrouding is likely to be viewed as part of the building  rather than an identifiable telecommunications installation”.

And continues: “Given the Listed status of Cromwell Tower, every step has been taken to reduce the visual impact of the proposed apparatus on the rooftop, as far as practicable, with the proposed deployment of GRP shrouding. All associated telecommunications apparatus has been designed to sit within this GRP shrouding. As such, the visual impact on the rooftop, and the building itself, is considered negligible as the GRP-shrouding will allow the telecommunications to be effectively deployed on the building rooftop whilst creating the appearance of a small building extension on the 123m-high tower. This type of extension on a residential tower within London is not unusual”

So how high is this proposed “small building extension” going to be?

The increase in height is 3.2m (10.5 feet in old money), and will be located in a “small area” in the centre of the upper roof Level of the building.

The applicant then asks itself the question:” The question that must therefore be posed; is what level of impact would a relatively small area of GRP shrouding on the Upper Roof Level of a 123m-high building cause to a) Cromwell Tower itself; b) the heritage asset that is The Barbican; and c) to the wider London skyline. The Applicants would argue that the impacts on all three are negligible, and highly unlikely to be even identified from ground-level, within The Barbican, or from other neighbouring tower blocks across the skyline. Given the height increase measures 3.2m, and is restricted to only a small area in the centre of the Upper Roof Level of the building, it is considered that the proposed development offers a viable, realistic and wholly appropriate town planning and environmental solution for Cromwell Tower….”

Potential objections to this application

The 2009 application was approved before the Barbican and Golden Lane Conservation Area was designated in 2018. This current application also does not meet the Barbican Listed Building Management Guidelines (LBMG).  For example, in Volume II it states that “The architectural form and character of the residential buildings isconsistent and distinctive. No alteration should be made that would affect the silhouette, massing, volume, modelling, material character, surface, colour (except as provided for by the approved Palette of Colours) or regularity of any of the buildings”.

It is clear that this proposal, if accepted, would change the roofline of the Tower and interrupt the skyline view of the three towers – in contradiction of the LBMG. In addition, if the application were to be approved, this could set an unwelcome precedent as it could be argued that similar structures could be placed on other Barbican Towers or buildings. 

In addition to the negative impact it would cause to the appearance of the building, the associated heritage harm and the non-compliance with Listed Building and Conservation Area guidelines, other issues that may be raised by residents include:

  • Health concerns arising from the electromagnetic radiation
  • Damage to the structure of the building given the extra height and weight
  • Possibility of falling debris in strong winds
  • No financial benefit to residents from the revenues but residents have to bear the costs of wear and tear on use of lifts and carpets

Just to point out that there are many (many!) tall buildings in the City. This type of equipment should be installed on a commercial building where there are not only no residents but the roof space is likely to be bigger and access to the lifts and stairs better, thereby allowing contractors to work when the building is either empty or less busy.  A Grade 2 listed residential building in a Conservation Area is surely not the place for this type of equipment.

No consultation with residents prior to the application being submitted

The documents supporting the application state that local stakeholders were consulted on 18th March. This did not happen and is against the City’s own policies. When made aware of this, the City finally sent out consultation letters to residents on 11th April, albeit that they were only received around the 18th.

The City has accepted that there were delays to letters arriving by post and that they will still consider any representations received until 21 days after the 18th April ie. 9th May.

Any representations can be made here

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