Call for BT tower to reopen: London publicans want West End tourist attraction reinstated

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The Independent Online
'WE CAN'T just give in to terrorism,' Eugene O'Brien, landlord of the George and Dragon, said. He is one of more than 40 publicans in the West End of London campaigning for the British Telecom tower to reopen to the public in order to boost local businesses.

Built in 1966, the tower's public viewing gallery was shut in 1971 after a bomb punched a 30ft hole in the toughened glass and reinforced concrete. The revolving restaurant closed in 1981 after the leaseholder moved out.

A BT spokesman said there were no plans to re-open the tower. 'The building has been shut for 20 years. It is surprising that a campaign has started now.

'The function of the tower has changed. It is now an operational building.' He added: 'We are not trying to be obstreperous.'

The campaigners are not convinced and want to see the tower re-established as a tourist attraction. 'If they were to charge similar prices to Madame Tussaud's then they could easily pay for security,' Mr O'Brien said.

In a letter to Peter Brooke, the Secretary of State for National Heritage, Mr O'Brien pointed out that BT's own figure of

1 million visitors a year, at pounds 5 a head, would yield pounds 15,000 a day to cover security costs. 'All they have to do is install X-ray machines like they have in airports,' said George Winchole, landlord of several West End pubs including the Tower Tavern near the base of the tower.

He frequently has tourists coming into the Tavern asking if they can visit the tower. 'They are usually very disappointed to hear that they can't'

The publicans began their campaign in March, and have written to local MPs and councillors. They are raising a petition to be presented to Downing Street in the near future.