Distinguished figures in British architecture have fired off angry letters to Westminster City Council supporting the retention of Pimlico School.
They include Sir Philip Powell; Sir Roger Walters, former head of the architecture department at the glc; Stephen Gardiner, former Observer architecture critic; and eminent engineer Alan Baxter, all of whom have written to the council's planning department to object to the proposals to replace the John Bancroft-designed school with a pfi scheme by Ellis Williams.
Powell, after seeing a 'meagre' presentation of the proposals at the school with only about half of the relevant material, criticises the loss of 20 per cent of an already small site for a school of 1450 pupils; the loss of a 'fine space' created by the school in relation to St Saviour's Church; the prospect of great noise and dirt including echoing noise of traffic for residents; and the unpleasant nature of a proposed seven-storey block of flats at the south-west sector of the site - which he called a taller, 'mean version of its stuccoed, Cubitt-designed neighbours in Pimlico'. He brands them altogether a 'depressing set of proposals' when viewed against the 'dramatic and delightful', 'ingenious', 'scintillating', 'exciting' and 'adventurous' current building despite its 25 years of hard use and physical neglect.
Walters makes three simple points: that the existing school is distinguished and remedial measures can be carried out at a reasonable cost; that the replacement scheme is too dense, and 'a blatant case of commercial manipulation at the expense of good planning'; and that the new scheme would create intolerable conditions and damage the education of the children.
Baxter also criticises the loss of space on an already tight site and the payment for the new scheme by using part of that space as being 'fundamentally wrong'. He adds, 'It is economic financially to repair and upgrade the existing building, but even more important is that our society cannot afford now to waste existing sound and useable resources like the structure of the school building by demolishing it.'
Gardiner says the plans look as if the school is sidelined and simply 'planning gain' for the luxury flats. There are further letters of support from riba president David Rock, Sir Colin Stansfield Smith, the Twentieth Century Society, and Ken Green - who was the first headteacher of the school, from 1969 to 1973.
Westminster has readvertised the application for planning permission in the local Victoria and Pimlico Times on 8 January - resulting in a new closing date of 29 January for consultation on the proposals.