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AHMM’s Oxford Street plans set for approval despite heritage concerns

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Allford Hall Monaghan Morris’s proposal to redevelop part of London’s Oxford Street and Soho Square is set to be approved, despite Historic England’s claims the plans ‘cause unjustified harm to the significance of the conservation area’

City of Westminster Council’s planning applications sub-committee is due to consider the office and retail scheme, located within the Soho Conservation Area, later today (6 August).

AHMM’s design for developer King Sloane Properties includes the demolition of 41 and 43 Oxford Street and 17-19 Soho Square, as well as partial demolition of 29, 31, 33, 37 and 39 Oxford Street to create a new eight-storey building with office and retail space, a café and a publicly accessible roof garden. The façades of the partially-demolished buildings would be retained.

Even though Historic England has officially objected, officers have recommended that councillors approve the plans, subject to referral to the Mayor of London and a section 106 agreement. They have also suggested granting conditional listing building consent to allow alterations to the Grade II-listed 35 Oxford Street.

The project at the east end of Oxford Street, which involves infilling the Falconberg Mews cul-de-sac service yard, would replace commercial space and two homes at 43 Oxford Street (a one-bedroom flat and a two-bedroom maisonette).

In a letter to planners, Michael Dunn, principal inspector of historic buildings and areas at Historic England, said that the demolition of 41 and 43 Oxford Street was unacceptable, would ‘harm the significance of the conservation area’ and that to replace them with a contemporary building would cause further harm ‘by interrupting the characterful sequence of historic buildings’.

He noted that number 41 was an ‘interesting’ Arts & Crafts commercial building from 1910 designed by Frederick Ernest Williams, while 43 was ‘an important and rare illustration of the pre-commercial late-Georgian domestic houses that once lined Oxford Street’. The proposed glazed ceramic-clad replacement building, with its ‘rigid composition’ and large windows, would be ‘incongruous’ in this setting, he added.

The narrow five-storey building at 35 Oxford Street, designed by architects Gilbert and Constanduros and built in 1909, was listed in 2009 thanks to its highly decorative Flemish Mannerist style. It has an ornamental gable with bands of green and cream faïence.

The building would be retained under AHMM’s design, although with internal alterations and the installation of a new shopfront.

Although welcoming the retention of the building’s Edwardian chimneypieces, Historic England told planners in separate advice that subsuming number 35 into the larger development would ‘erode its integrity as a standalone building and therefore harm its significance’. However, it said the harm to the significance of the listed building was ‘less than substantial’.

AHMM declined to comment.

Ahmm oxford road 19 00514 full design and access statement 5821528 18

Ahmm oxford road 19 00514 full design and access statement 5821528 18

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Is it time to ask what's the point of a Conservation Area in Central London, if any building that isn't actually listed seems to be fair game for redevelopment?

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