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Immunity decision leaves council free to demolish Pimlico School

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John Bancroft has relaunched a campaign to save his Pimlico School building after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport paved the way for its possible demolition.

Bancroft is preparing for a legal challenge after culture secretary Tessa Jowell refused to reconsider the building for listing, instead granting owner Westminster council a five-year 'certificate of immunity'.

The council is now free to draw up options for the building, which could range from refurbishment to wholesale demolition. The certificate of immunity blocks further attempts to seek protection for the 1960s building for the next five years.

Bancroft claimed the decision reflected the government's erroneous policy towards educational buildings. He said it was short-sighted to be 'tearing down schools that have loads of life left and putting up glittering new buildings'.

The Twentieth Century Society's casework officer Eva Branscome agreed the 'highly sculptural' Brutalist building was a 'very strong design' and worth saving.

However, the secretary of state, in her decision not to reconsider the latest listing recommendation, ruled that it was not of 'sufficient architectural quality' to justify protection, citing its shortcomings in terms of solar gain and its high maintenance costs.

Roger Hawkins, director of hawkins\brown, who was responsible for drawing up a redevelopment plan several years ago, said he was pleased the building remained unlisted. He said his scheme had 'preserved the character of the school but with adaptive changes'.

Westminster is now bidding for a grant from the Department for Education and Skills' 'Building Schools for the Future' programme, the size of which will determine whether it can begin afresh with a new building or be limited to refurbishing the old one.

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