BT faces demands to reopen tower

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The Independent Online
IT WAS described as "the Big Ben of the 20th century", a 620ft wonder of the Swinging Sixties. A million people flocked to its viewing floors and revolving restaurant in the year the Post Office Tower opened. But today, as the renamed Telecom Tower reaches its 30th birthday, it is all but forgotten, writes Steve Homer.

Now British Telecom is under pressure to lift the ban on public visitors imposed 24 years ago after a bomb - believed to be the work of the Angry Brigade - exploded in the viewing gallery. The London Tourist Board (LTB) and the Fitzrovia Society, the local conservation group, want to put the tower back on the map, and Labour's national heritage spokesman, Chris Smith, backs them.

An LTB spokeswoman said: "We think it's a great pity that Londoners and visitors alike cannot enjoy the tremendous experience of London laid out before them. We have had discussions with BT on a number of occasions and they have explained their security concerns for the important technical facilities the tower houses."

BT insists the tower cannot be opened because of the important activities carried out there, but the vital work is actually carried out on the lowest floors. Martyn Webster, BT's broadcast services manager, admits that the tower part of the structure is "technically not required".

In its heyday, the tower ranked with Concorde and the hovercraft as a British marvel. It was the winning point in a New York-to-London race; it appeared on ITV screens in Thames TV's logo and it served as a recurring phallic metaphor in an Iris Murdoch novel.