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SAVE calls for Strand plans to face planning inquiry

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Conservation group SAVE Britian’s Heritage has asked the government to call in Hall McKnight’s controversial proposals to redevelop Kings College’s campus off The Strand in central London

Last month Westminster City Council approved the college’s proposals to demolish several historic, but unlisted, buildings to make way for the new £50million scheme.

Conservation body English Heritage – now Historic England (HE) - did not object to the proposals on the grounds that demolishing the existing buildings would cause ‘less than significant harm’.

However since the planning application was approved, a petition calling on the college to abandon the scheme has passed the 7,000-signature mark.

Now SAVE has published a letter dated 25 April to then-communities secretary Eric Pickles at the Department for Communities and Local Government, asking him to exercise his power to call-in the proposals, subjecting them to a planning inquiry.

In it, SAVE director Clementine Cecil argues that the proposed new buildings are of ‘extremely low quality’ and ‘bland in contrast to the existing buildings’, and would affect the background to the Grade-I listed Somerset house.

‘As part of one of London’s most historic thoroughfares, the buildings are of national significance,’ she said.

‘The conclusions drawn by HE could have negative repercussions on a national scale if not challenged.

‘We consider that there is sufficient national public interest in this matter, and elements of controversy that warrant a public inquiry where these important issues can be discussed, considered and challenged.’

Following his appointment this week, an ultimate decision on calling in the proposals will rest with new communities secretary Greg Clark.

Previous story (AJ 29.04.2015)

SAVE launches petition against Hall McKnight’s Strand plans

Campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage has launched a petition calling on King’s College London to shelve the controversial redevelopment of its campus off The Strand.

The college last week received planning permission from Westminster City Council to demolish historical buildings and create new facilities which it says are needed to maintain its position as a world-leading education institution.

More than 2,200 people have already put their name to the petition on website 38degrees.co.uk, pleading for a rethink of the proposals, designed by practice Hall McKnight.

A statement by the group said: ‘This case has triggered national interest and struck a nerve with all who love London.

‘SAVE has been overwhelmed by messages of support for our position, and anger and disappointment at the decision to grant planning permission. This petition aims to demonstrate this strength of feeling.’

The conservation group submitted strong objections to the planning application, along with the Victorian Society, The Ancient Monument Society, LAMAS, the Courtauld Institute and the Somerset House Trust, as well as many individuals.

The buildings scheduled for demolition are recognised by council planning policy as ‘unlisted buildings of merit’ in the Strand Conservation Area.
But a planning report submitted to the planning committee which approved the scheme, said: ‘While the proposals do cause some harm in terms of the loss of the unlisted buildings of merit and the impact of the “tower” on views from Fountain Court, it is considered that this harm is less than substantial to the heritage assets affected.

But SAVE said it strongly disagreed with the assessment, and criticised English Heritage for its support for the proposals partly because the buildings have been internally altered.

‘Conservation areas are not designated primarily for their interiors and works to interiors do not require permission,’ it said.

After gaining planning permission last week, Hall McKnight insisted the practice had carried out a ‘careful study of a remarkably complex environment’ before submitting the plans.

Both the practice and Kings College refused to comment.

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