City tower plan could change for Roman remains
ondon may get a new subterrean Roman tourist attraction as a result of a row over plans to build a new tower on a historic site in the heart of the Square Mile.
The application to build a 32-storey tower on Gracechurch Street is on the site of London’s original Roman forum — an open-air square that was the heart of the city until it was torn down by Rome in AD300 as a punishment for Londoners backing a rival leader.
It includes plans for a “heritage garden” to house artefacts from the Museum of London’s archives, and a virtual reality experience bringing to life the site where citizens would gather to do business and watch gladiators fight.
In a statement to the City of London’s planning committee, who will examine the proposal on Monday, the Museum of London said it was “enthusiastic about and supportive of” the plans. It added that the “new space will offer opportunity to celebrate the historical significance of the site… through the potential display of finds from the archaeological investigations of the project, as well as the use of virtual/augmented reality to allow visitors the opportunity to experience the site as it once was”.
But Historic England initially objected, saying the plans “would harm highly significant archaeology at the heart of the Roman City”.
They have now withdrawn their objection after the developers changed their plans and said they would “preserve and/or display the first forum-basilica remains” if any are found.
Historic England also asked councillors to allow “for public access to view in-site remains” in what will be the building’s basement.
London is already home to the Mithraeum – the remains of a Roman temple found under the HQ of news organisation Bloomberg – which is open to the public.
The remains of the forum were only rediscovered during the construction of Leadenhall Market in the 1880s. More recent digs, in 1990 and 2001, revealed remains dating back to around AD60.
A spokesman for applicant Hertshten Properties said it was “delighted to be partnering with the Museum of London”.
Council officials have recommended planning permission be granted but said it should be referred to the Mayor of London and that the Department for Culture, Media & Sport and cultural body Unesco be notified.