Channel 4 to make reality TV show in South Bank Tower penthouse

Three unoccupied penthouse apartments at the top of a South Bank skyscraper could be the setting for a new Channel 4 Big Brother-style reality TV show next spring.

Channel 4 to make reality TV show in South Bank Tower penthouse
The Red Arrows flying past the South Bank Tower in 2020

This summer Channel 4 announced it had commissioned Studio Lambert to make 'Rise & Fall', described as "a major new social experiment that explores the gap between the haves and the have-nots and asks how wealth and power shape the way we behave toward one another".

According to Channel 4's announcement: "The show is set in a glamorous Succession-like world, with the powerful living in an opulent penthouse and everyone else living in a basement workplace.

"Through a series of games and challenges those in power will be responsible for making decisions which affect those who have none, whilst those without power will have to compete to build favour with those at the top."

Now Studio Lambert has applied to Southwark Council's planning department for 'prior approval' for use of three penthouse apartments on the 38th and 39th floors of the South Bank Tower for filming purposes.

The South Bank Tower – at the corner of Hatfields and Upper Ground – was built as King's Reach Tower and was the headquarters of IPC Magazines until it was converted to residential use and extended seven years ago.

One of the apartments to be used in the show was recently advertised for sale with an asking price of Β£11 million, and another furnished flat on the 38th floor was recently offered for rent at Β£2,400 a week.

The two penthouses on the 39th floor are still in shell condition and will be turned into a film set by the programme makers who are due to move in on 1 December.

Filming would take place 24 hours a day from 7 March to 25 March 2023 with the show's 18 participants staying overnight in the building.

Some filming would also take place at the nearby Doon Street Car Park owned by Coin Street Community Builders, with participants chaperoned whilst walking along Upper Ground to prevent them from communicating with one another.

The planning documents submitted to the council also note that "contributors will be allowed to leave the building for welfare breaks/fresh air every day, one contributor at a time and accompanied by a chaperone".

Around 40 production staff will work in the tower during filming, working on a shift system.

Studio Lambert's application to Southwark's planners is accompanied by a legal opinion by barrister Jonathan Easton arguing that the use of the residential flats for round-the-clock filming is covered by permitted development rights that mean film-makers don't need to seek explicit planning permission for their activities.

Mr Easton describes Rise & Fall as "akin to Big Brother where the filming would take place 24/7, including while the participants sleep".

The permitted development rights allow "the temporary use of any land or buildings for a period not exceeding 9 months in any 27 month period for the purpose of commercial film-making" but do not apply if β€œthe use of the land is for overnight accommodation".

Studio Lambert's argument rests on the contention that participants will be accommodated overnight in the tower is incidental to their participation in a round-the-clock TV production.

Mr Easton concludes: "It cannot reasonably be said in those circumstances that the land or buildings are being used for overnight accommodation; they are being used for film-making which includes recording and filming people overnight."

β€’ Find out more in application 22/AP/3842.

Tags: Arts & culture, Planning & Development, TV & Film

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