Just 3 pounds for a bird's-eye view

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The Independent Online
TWENTY years after the IRA blew a hole in the Post Office Tower and closed it to the public, London once again has an eagle's nest.

The 800ft Canary Wharf tower, built by Olympia & York in London's Docklands, will be open to the public at weekends from Saturday 12 September.

For a pounds 3 charge visitors can get into the tower's super-fast lifts and travel at 14.5 feet per second to the 50th storey. From there they can see up to 30 miles on a clear day, and look down the Thames estuary or over London.

The entrance charge will make little impact on the ambitious development's pounds 620m of unpaid debts. It would take more than 206 million visitors to clear that. A spokesman for Canary Wharf's administrators admitted that the visitors would do little to reduce outstanding debts, but said the tower should draw people into the shopping mall below.

It might also attract new tenants to the development's empty offices. Only 15 per cent of the 4.2 million sq ft of offices is occupied.

Official figures for the cost of space have never been mentioned, although it is thought to be cheap. Instead, tenants have been offered a package that might include taking on the lease of existing premises.

The opening weekend coincides with a two-day European oyster and seafood fair being organised by London Docklands Development Corporation. But visitors who fancy munching a Belon or Colchester oyster while taking in the panorama will be disappointed. Seafood is only available in the area around the base of the tower.

Ernst & Young, the administrator, thinks people will spend about half an hour up the tower and says it can take up to 700 people an hour.

In order to ensure that the public will be able to look out over London and the surrounding counties for some time, extra security measures have been taken.