Developer Southwark Square Ltd has sought permission from the London Borough of Southwark to knock down existing buildings at number 55 Southwark Street and to put up a building comprising a 30-storey rocket-shaped tower rising from a seven-storey base.
The scheme, which would be called Gagarin Square, would be used as a public theatre and rehearsal space, art space and museum, restaurant and cafe, bar, offices and residential flats.
The developers say the design of the tower was inspired by the engineering behind Soviet pilot and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight in 1961. Russian architectural firm Studio 44 drew up the proposals.
But the council resolved to refuse the plans at a meeting last night, in line with a recommendation from planners.
A planning report said that while the "form is unmistakably rocket-like, even featuring a cone shaped nose at the top and a supporting tower structure, the rocket reference is completely alien to the character and identity of Southwark, and indeed London as a whole."
The report added that, "although strong architectural concepts are encouraged, this requires sensitivity and skilled manipulation to result in the high architectural standards expected" but that "this has not been employed here, where the inappropriate design concept has been allowed to dominate the proposals to a harmful degree."
The report also said that the scheme should be refused "due to its failure to make any provision for affordable housing".
Mark Williams, cabinet member for regeneration and new homes, said: "The committee agreed with planning officers that this proposal offered nothing to enhance or support the local area, failed to offer any real benefits for local people and that its design was completely out of keeping for the surrounding streets and buildings. We have a duty to maintain high standards of development in our borough and this application failed to meet many of our policies to do that."
Donald Riley, project director for Gagarin Square, said the developer would appeal the refusal. Riley said that the scheme would provide a "landmark" for Southwark and the design would not be changed.
The scheme could yet be called in by London mayor Boris Johnson.