The American embassy is to be moved out of central London to the South Bank of the Thames, ending a 200-year association with Grosvenor Square. Robert Tuttle, the American ambassador to the UK, announced yesterday that he had signed a conditional agreement with a developer to acquire a five-acre "opportunity area" in Nine Elms. He said the relocation would see "America playing a role in the regeneration of the South Bank".
He estimated that the project, which needs to be approved by US Congress, would take five years to complete. If the plan falls through, the existing embassy would probably be renovated, he added. Mr Tuttle, who led the search for a new site, said it was important to keep the embassy close to parliament and government buildings. The complex will also be near to the MI5 building.
An international design competition will now be launched to ensure the new building will be energy-efficient and a "welcoming" destination. Asked if the move was calculated to avoid the London congestion charge, Mr Tuttle laughed and said: "Absolutely not." The US owes over $2m in unpaid charges.