Big bust-up over plans to build Dubai Big Ben

Dubai Municipality and developer clash over high-rise plans for Big Ben clock face in the Middle East

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By  Sean Cronin Published  January 7, 2006

A row has erupted between planners and the developer hoping to build a giant 60-storey replica of London’s Big Ben tower in the middle of Dubai. The original designs now look likely to be scrapped because of a dispute over plans to include a clock face at the top of the tower. It is the latest twist to a bizarre tale that has even involved the Palace of Westminster in London. Construction Week can reveal that planning officers at Dubai Municipality do not want the tower to include a clock face — effectively wrecking its chances of being built with a Big Ben theme. Shoring is already underway on the site, which is located close to Dubai International Financial Centre, off Sheikh Zayed Road. Arabian Construction Company (ACC) has taken the main contract for the building, thought to be worth around US $60 million (AED221 million). The authority initially rejected plans to build the tower and put pressure on the developer to build it in Nakheel’s International City development. According to project sources, the developer subsequently secured a ‘letter of no objection’ from the Palace of Westminster in London. But now the authority is refusing to grant permission for the clock face on the building. An insider at consultant, Adnan Saffarini, said that plans for the tower were still live, although consent has not yet been given by Dubai Municipality. But according to contractor ACC, the original designs may have been abandoned completely. This week, the contractor was keen to distance the project from Big Ben, despite the obvious similarities between the two buildings. Director Wassim Merhebi, said: “The project was delayed because of a design row over the clock. Although the building will have similarities to the Big Ben tower, it will not bear the clock face and will not be called Big Ben. It will be a 60-storey residential building.” Big Ben is the colloquial name of the 147 year-old Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster. While the clock tower in London stands just under 100 m tall, the Big Ben tower planned for Dubai would be around three times as big. The tower, to be built by ACC, will be split between office and residential space. Work is expected to be completed by December 2007.

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