A High Court judge has ordered a judicial review of Eric Pickles’ decision not to call in David Chipperfield Architects’ 29-storey Elizabeth House scheme near Waterloo station, London.
The communities secretary had backed the scheme for developer Chelsfield and London & Regional Properties despite strong opposition from English Heritage (EH) and Westminster Council, both of which disagreed with the scale of the scheme.
The council and EH teamed up to mount a joint attack on the scheme and today (7 November) the judge sided with them, concluding that Pickles’ decision should be reviewed.
An English Heritage spokesperson said: ‘Naturally we are very pleased with the decision of the Court. English Heritage and Westminster City Council took the unusual step of requesting a judicial review because we are seeking clarity on how the Secretary of State exercises his judgement when considering complex and potentially controversial cases.
‘While we think the principle of redeveloping Elizabeth House is acceptable, we objected to the current planning application because of its potential impact on the Westminster World Heritage Site and felt that this important issue should be explored at a public inquiry.’
Councillor Robert Davis, deputy leader of Westminster City Council, said: ‘We are delighted at this development, because the council is committed to preserving the status of the Palace of Westminster as one of the world’s most important and most recognised World Heritage Sites.
The news is the second major blow this week for the Stirling-Prize winning architect, coming only a day after the practice learned it was being replaced on the project to extend the grade I-listed Geffrye Museum in east London (AJ 06.11.13).
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.