The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has angered campaigners fighting to preserve Pimlico School and prompted accusations of a political cover-up by refusing to list the building without referring it on to its statutory adviser English Heritage.
In August Kenneth Powell of the Twentieth Century Society wrote to the newly appointed listings minister Alan Howarth calling for the seminal London school to be listed Grade II. EH had already discussed and rejected listing the building in the higher Grade II* category in November 1996, but since the building has subsequently become 30 years old it is newly eligible for a Grade II listing. If the government were to agree to the listing it would scupper the Westminster City Council PFI 'pathfinder' proposals to demolish the school and replace it with a scheme designed by Ellis Williams, which has had a hostile reception from parents, parent governors and eminent architects and engineers including Sir Colin Stansfield Smith and Alan Baxter.
The AJ has learned that the DCMS did not pass on the letter to EH for reappraisal under the new conditions and has flatly rejected the new application. The department said Howarth decided that it didn't meet the conditions and that the original advice was still appropriate for the lower level. 'It was not listable in any level' said a spokesman.
Powell, who had not received a reply or acknowledgement to his letter, said: 'We find that most unsatisfactory in the way it's been done and will have to consider going to a judicial review'.
The society has already sought counsel to get advice on the matter.
Powell added that the society's requests for such listings are normally passed on to EH. EH confirmed that it had not been asked to look at Pimlico again.
Meanwhile the atmosphere in the governance of the school is subtly changing. One of the 19 governors, Nicholas Paul, who was 'pro-PFI', has resigned to be replaced by a campaigner for the school's retention, Michael Ball, leaving a new majority against PFI. And Home Secretary Jack Straw has resigned as chairman of the governors, offering no explanation for his action. He will remain as a governor, however.
Most worryingly for the organisers, the timetable of the whole project has slipped drastically. When the Pimlico PFI was originally conceived, it envisaged the first bulldozers on site in January 1998. That timetable was pushed back to January 1999, but has now, the AJ understands, been further pushed back to January 2000. The project is additionally complicated by the need to work around the school year.