The groundswell of support for this campaign has been incredible: a strong illustration of how dear these buildings are held.
|An extremely positive move has been the change of position from Historic England, who have now concluded that, “this group of buildings is integral to the character and appearance of the conservation area.” Their changed position means it is far more likely that these buildings will be saved.
However, we are not out of the woods yet – the planning application has not been withdrawn, and the threat remains.
If you haven’t done so already, please write to Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, requesting that this application be called in for a public inquiry. Make sure to quote planning references 14/12215/FULL and 14/12116/LBC.
Letters should be emailed to email@example.com and copied to firstname.lastname@example.org, or posted to the Department of Communities and Local Government, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5DU.
A personal letter carries more weight than one that has been copied and pasted, but here are our grounds for why we think that this application should be called in:
SAVE’s grounds for a request for public inquiry:
– The proposals are in direct conflict with national planning policy guidance on heritage protection. It proposes the demolition of four ‘unlisted buildings of merit’ in a Conservation Area and the façading of a Grade II listed building. These buildings are protected in local policy (Policy DES 9 on Conservation Areas) and in law, which defines conservation areas as ‘areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.’ The demolition would damage the setting of two Grade I listed buildings – Somerset House and St Mary Le Strand.
– As part of one of London’s most historic thoroughfares, the buildings are of national significance.
– The proposed new building is of a bland design, which fails to respond its surroundings. It does not preserve or enhance the special character of the conservation area.
– The proposals and the consultation have created controversy, that need to be fully explored in a public inquiry. Firstly, Historic England’s advice letter to Westminster Council is flawed, as it fails to apply the appropriate tests for development in a Conservation Area. Their statement of the 13 May 2015 further confuses their stance on this application. Rather than simply advise the local authority to take this into consideration when determining the application, they had taken it on themselves to conclude that the benefits outweigh the harm. SAVE challenges this strongly, and challenges whether Historic England has the expertise to weigh up some of these benefits. Tim Jones, Principal Inspector of Historic Buildings and Areas for Historic England, wrote in his original letter to Westminster Council regarding the scheme on 23rd March 2015:
“Whilst the loss of the unlisted buildings is regrettable their demolition… does not strike at the heart of the significance of the Conservation Area, why it was designated. Their loss would therefore be considered ‘less than substantial harm’ and when weighted against the public benefits. I consider that these benefits outweigh the harm.”
– There were strong objections to the planning application from the Courtauld Institute, Somerset House, and over 60 others including several national amenity societies. Their objections also flag up what they see as major flaws in the consultation process.
– There has been overwhelming strong public outrage expressed towards these proposals, and this has resulted in major press coverage from many different local and national news outlets, reflecting the national importance of the case.
– SAVE considers that it is not been proven that the public benefits as presented by the applicant depend on the demolition of these buildings. SAVE considers that a sensitive retention and restoration scheme can address the university’s concerns about these buildings.
In addition, you can write to the principal of King’s College, Edward Byrne, at email@example.com or King’s College London, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS, asking him to reconsider the plans to demolish these buildings.
Finally, if you didn’t see it, here is Simon Jenkins’s marvellous article on the Strand:
All best wishes
Clementine Cecil and the SAVE team
SAVE relies entirely upon donations for its continuing survival. Please consider becoming a Friend or Saviour or making a donation – all contributions are warmly received. See www.savebritainsheritage.org for details