Westminster council is set to refuse permission for a Robert Adam Architects-designed scheme beside the former Simpsons department store on Piccadilly.Officers have concluded that the quality of the grand Classical office-led scheme does not justify demolition of the three buildings that currently occupy the site. They are urging councillors, who will consider the proposals at a committee meeting tonight, to demand a reworking of the plans.
The proposal is for an eight-storey building including a three storey-roof structure 'in temple style' that planners said was 'bulky and overpowering' and 'not integrated into the rest of the scheme'. The 'unacceptable' element would be excessively dominant in the streetscape and would adversely affect the setting of nearby St James' Church, they conclude. They also objected to the use of brick on the Church Place elevation and the lack of decorative features, which they said is out of keeping with the conservation area.
The site - which also fronts onto Jermyn Street and Church Place - is currently occupied by two Robert Sawyer-designed buildings (1903-04) and a 1950s office block designed to mirror the style of the 1930s Simpsons building next door. Although officers accepted demolition of the unlisted buildings in principle, they said a replacement scheme must be of 'exceptional quality'.
The proposals have also fallen foul of the borough's policy on mixed-use development. The scheme increases the amount of office space on the site, creating a series of large floor plates between the first and eighth floor, but with no corresponding increase in residential space.
Objections have also been raised from the London Society, which called it 'overcomplicated', and the Twentieth Century Society, which agreed that the roof structure risked dominating the setting of the Simpsons building, now home to Waterstones.