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EH refuses to back down over Chipperfield’s Elizabeth House revamp

English Heritage has written to DCLG seeking a review of Lambeth Council’s decision to approve David Chipperfield’s Elizabeth House redevelopment

The £600 million regeneration of the 1960s office block was approved in November despite the concerns of English Heritage, Westminster Council and UNESCO.

English Heritage had opposed the 132,000m² proposal – comprising a 29-storey mixed-use office tower and a residential block – on the grounds it could damage views from the nearby Westminster World Heritage site.

The heritage body in January wrote to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) requesting the project be called-in. DCLG confirmed it was considering the request and has yet to make a decision.

DCLG had 21 days to consider the application but due to the application’s complexity made an extension to this time period on 28 January. A spokesperson said: ‘There is no time limit when an extension is made.’

In 2009, Allies and Morrison’s previous scheme for the site was turned down by former secretary of state John Denham following opposition from English Heritage.

In a statement, English Heritage said: ‘Though the scheme would bring welcome improvements to the area around Waterloo Station, in our view, this benefit is far outweighed by the damage it would cause to London’s historic environment, particularly to buildings and areas which are of international or national importance.  

It added: ‘English Heritage believes that significant harm would be caused to the setting and views from the Westminster World Heritage Site and the proposal would intrude heavily on views of Big Ben, one of London’s most easily identifiable and much-loved landmarks and a Grade I listed building. The impact on the setting and views of the Grade I listed Royal Festival Hall is also of serious concern and the proposed development would appear visibly attached to the tower of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office if viewed from the Blue Bridge in St James’s Park.’

Approving the scheme, Lambeth Council had said the regeneration project’s substantial benefits to the area and local economy made it ‘impossible to refuse’. The mayor of London has since backed the approval.

Readers' comments (1)

  • On what basis is English Heritage making the decision? By that I don’t mean what legal or planning basis but rather what information. Our system of visual assessment lends itself well to opinion presented as evidence. This isn’t a comment on the architecture or the developer or even the visuals artists but all images like this are the result of creative decisions and are at best a manipulation of reality. EH or Lambeth can’t possibly understand the impact of the proposal on the quality of the historic environment on the basis of staring at these two dimensional images. Ultimately, it is the temperament of the creative team, the relationship of the architects to the visualizers and the amount of money the client is willing to spend that will determine the ‘reality’ of the outcome. I hope that EH and Lambeth seek an independent review of the verified images before any planning decision is made and that way we really can say what you see is what you will get.

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